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A bowl of porridge for our Philippine birthright

MANILA (Agencies) : The Philippines is set to reap immense benefits from a booming population dominated by young people, a development which the governor of the Central Bank of The Philippines, Amando Tetangco, said on March 28 would propel an accelerated economic growth.

Tetangco told the Philippine Investment Forum at The Peninsula Hotel in Makati that the country should get the full taste of the flavour of its demographic sweet spot by 2015.

He said that with a median age of 22, the Pearl of the Orient Seas does not have to face the demographic problems of a rapidly aging population that other Asian nations are looking at.

“In fact, among the young countries in Asia, The Philippines has the lowest median age,” Tetangco pointed out.

He predicted that the flavour of the demographic sweet spot should last at least until 2050.

“While some countries are facing problems relating to their aging population, The Philippines is set to enter its demographic sweet spot. Studies have shown that extended periods of accelerated economic growth have coincided with countries entering this period,” the governor of the nation’s central bank said.

He described this phase as being associated with a young, vibrant labour force that can ably support a pension system. However, he warned that it is also contingent on a high growth economy with a viable local consumer base.

Tetangco was commenting on a study done by The Financial Times analyst David Pilling, who says that many of Asia’s booming economies are coming towards the end of their demographic free ride.

Pilling cites a prediction from Fredrick Neumann from the Hongkong Shanghai Banking Corporation saying that the workforces of China, Hong Kong, South Korea, Taiwan and Singapore are all already on the backslide.

Neumann has predicted that The Philippines will leapfrog 27 places and become the world’s 16th largest economy by 2050, if it can use its demographic advantage effectively.

“At least these economies, with the exception of China, are already fairly prosperous. But some less well-off countries will soon run out of steam,” Pilling says.

He then lists the late-comers with a bright future as The Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia and, what he describes as everybody’s demographic darling, India. “The latter will add the equivalent of Europe’s workforce over the next 15 years,” Pilling says.

Nevertheless, he adds that the opportunity can easily be squandered.

“The Philippines shows how easily one can squander one’s demographic birthright. Its natural resource is its people, but because of a lack of good jobs at home, about 10 per cent of Filipinos work abroad, remitting cash on which their relatives, and the Philippine economy as a whole, relies,” he warns.

CBCP News reports that in January, the Philippine vice-president, Jejomar Binay, said the country should safeguard its population from what he called “the dangers that brought about an 
irreversible decline in the west.”

He called for a massive investment in the country’s workforce, which is in direct contrast to the majority call from the members of the congress to spend billions of taxpayers’ pesos on contraception to limit population growth.

Binay told the media, “We need to invest in our families, in education, training and health care especially of our youth and women; we need to equip them with sufficient skills and work habits to give them a big competitive edge in the global market.”

However, the current policy of the incumbent president, Noynoy Aquino, of exporting the strongest and most adventurous and industrious section of the population into low-paid jobs on the international market would seem to be setting the nation on a course of squandering its greatest asset for the second time.

At the end of World War II, The Philippines was tipped to become the Japan of Asia.

However, to a large extent the discovery by many of the wealthy elite that there was more money in importing than exporting, led to its thriving manufacturing industry committing virtual suicide.

The Philippines has been selling off its family jewels one by one, and currently seems to be hell-bent on selling off its last remaining valuable asset, its own people, for the same bowl of porridge Esau sold his birthright for in Old Testament days.

While some countries are facing problems relating to their aging population, The Philippines is set to enter its demographic sweet spot