Kiong Hee Huat Tsai!
It’s the Year of the Water Rabbit, and the usual geomancers tell us it’s not exactly a good year.
Of course they will sell “charms” or whatever tacky knick-knacks to “counter the evil spirits” or the “ill wind,” and many will follow them, the usual reason being “wala namang masama na sundin.”
You do not need feng shui to divine the future in 2023.
Just ponder on the onion bulb and wonder if government knows the solutions.
The government cavalry charged to Davos, peddling to the world’s economic elite our MWF, and came back saying that it will be further ”customized.”
In short, wait for mutations of a wealth fund from a country pretending to be wealthy.
This time, there were no figures of investment pledges, but wait till the trip to Japan two weeks hence.
Surely there will be pledges, and in fairness to our capable commercial counselors assigned to the land of the rising sun, they have been working hard at that.
In Davos, our president got Morgan Stanley to reiterate their plan to put up an office in the country, another vehicle for “hot money” or portfolio investments that come in and out.
And a Middle Eastern logistics company already operating in Clark, assured him it would expand its network here to include seaports.
Our finance secretary who was with the presidential party came back promising a rosy 7.5 percent GDP growth this year, along with the idea of the private sector participating in the wealth fund.
This was simultaneously echoed by the HoR’s resident economist Joey Salceda who came up with yet another mutation of the Maharlika, where government will be a minority, with multilateral banks like the World Bank and ADB and the private sector participating in the capital build-up.
But Cong Joey has another novel idea, which is to “securitize” future net earnings of our GOCCs to be placed into the MWF. In short, borrow more to capitalize the Fund.
If the government financial institutions or the friendly private banks will not be partners in the fund, they could lend money on the back of “securitized” future earnings. Neat.
With all the brouhaha about the Maharlika Wealth Fund tucked into the Davos trip that critics claim to be much ado about little, and uber-expensive at that, expect the Senate under SP Zubiri, who was represented by Sen. Mark Villar, to fast-track the approval of the Fund.
As we wrote last week, the Senate will not likely embarrass the president, who touted his investment vehicle at the top of the world confab.
Meanwhile, the January 27 deadline for the arrival of imported onions is fast approaching, and along with the domestic harvest, prices of the aromatic have been going down, from a high of 700 per kilo three weeks ago to 350.
Farmers used to get 200 to 250 per kilo ex-farm, and are now getting 150 for their new harvests, still enough to make them smile, after last year’s weeping losses.
But HoR economist Joey Salceda is willing to bet his five fingers that come the harvest peak, onions will go as low as 50 pesos per kilo.
Meanwhile, the climate change brings about mutations in weather patterns, whether here or elsewhere.
In Europe, the ski slopes have thin ice, brought about by global warming. Whether at Mont Blanc or Titlis, the skiers could not enjoy the snow.
They should have gone to Niseko in Hokkaido, or even South Korea instead.
In California, the rains have become unceasing, flooding the valleys with unusual volumes of water.
Their meteorologists attribute this to “atmospheric rivers.”
Here at home, the Mindoro provinces have been heavily inundated for weeks on end, destroying their palay and vegetable crops, and so is ever-poor Eastern Samar and parts of also-poor Northern Samar.
Our meteorologists have introduced “shear lines” to their lexicon of weather phenomena and describe the unusual rainfall patterns accordingly.
How will these weather phenomena affect our food inflation in 2023? This is an El Nino year even if the Chinese call it the Year of the Water Rabbit.
Don’t expect the Department of Agriculture to come up with the right answers.
\In Andalucia, whose soil hosts the most number of olive groves, along with tomatoes, oranges and avocadoes that are traded in the Rungis market in the outskirts of Paris for all the world to consume, farmers have been crying as no rainfall through all of summer and autumn have come down from the skies.
“The rain in Spain stays mainly in the plains”, Professor Higgins and Eliza Dolittle in My Fair Lady warbled.
But in 2022, whether in the plains, in the hills or in the mountains, the rains did not come. So expect olive oil to be more expensive this year.
But that concerns the upper crust.
Lower income Filipinos do not use olive oil, yet they wonder why they suffer from high costs of cooking oil when once upon a time, we were the world’s largest producer of coconut oil.
“Mutatis mutandis” may be what the creative minds of the Maharlika Wealth Fund seek to present to the Senate, with many more changes from the original still gestating.
Yet a banker still wonders if the MWF will be a vehicle for European or Singaporean funds to “wash” the hidden wealth of their clients.
If memory serves me right, the former First Lady used to publicly state that Ferdinand I would bequeath his immense wealth to the Filipino nation, to benefit the poor.
Did the testator in his last will and testament indeed stipulate that his wealth should revert to his people?
That is a mutation we would like to see.
Still, while the usual critics of Ferdinand II chide him for saying in Davos that he entered politics as a matter of family survival, instead of the hypocritical paeans to “serving the poor,” this writer commends our president for his candor.
“Nagpaka-totoo,” as Tagalogs would remark.
What concrete achievements his father in 21 years had made was tarnished almost completely after his fall from grace.
Coming out from that cocoon of “dark days,” the son has now been given a chance by the electorate for redemption.
We can only hope and pray that behind the candor is a nobility of purpose.