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Saturday, February 2, 2013

US economist Nouriel Roubini hails Philippine success story

Visiting American economist Nouriel Roubini hailed the Philippines as an “economic success,” citing the country’s potential to move toward a higher growth rate of at least 7 percent a year.
But Roubini said more structural reforms were needed to ensure “sustainable” and “cohesive” growth beyond President Aquino’s term in 2016.
In an investment forum organized by First Metro Investment Corp., Roubini was mostly upbeat on the Philippines, which he believed deserved a sovereign investment-grade rating for its fiscal reforms.
“There’s renewed interest among investors, recognizing changes in the policy of the country such as in fiscal policy,” said the economist, who shot to fame as the “prophet of doom” who predicted the collapse of the US housing market that led to a global economic crunch in 2008-2009.
Roubini said the success story of the Philippines was a result of a sophisticated private sector, and strong governance and reform policies.
Anemic global recovery
His favorable view on the Philippines came amid an anemic global economic recovery. He predicted a global growth of only 3 percent, more cautious than the International Monetary Fund’s forecast of 3.5 percent.
Roubini noted that the US political system was dysfunctional and that this political gridlock would likely be a continuing source of noise for the economy.
While risks of a euro zone breakup had been averted, he said there were remaining risks on peripheral countries and in the case of China, risks of hard landing could not be ruled out for next year.
Rich human capital
As for the Philippines, he said the country had the potential to achieve a higher growth rate given its rich human capital—a large pool of young, literate and English-speaking citizenry from which the country could derive dividends.
Roubini cited the significant amount of remittances from overseas workers, the rising middle class and consumer-oriented society.
He also noted the country’s rich natural resources, which could help boost the agriculture sector and build a manufacturing base, and ongoing diversification in economic activity.
Outsourcing, tourism
While outsourcing accounted for large part of the economy, tourism can play a bigger role, he said.
The American economist said mining could be a more significant contributor to the local economy and a magnet for investments if more projects were allowed while being mindful of environmental issues.
Roubini recognized the country’s “sound” monetary policy and commitment to inflation—targeting, saying that inflation could stay at 3 percent or below this year, aided by a strong peso.
Strong democracy
Also working in the country’s favor was a strong democracy, a much-improved governance framework and a popular leader, Roubini said.
On the other hand, Roubini enumerated a number of constraints to growth in the Philippines, including the potential impact of rapid peso appreciation on the competitiveness of exporters and the business process outsourcing.
Another challenge was a prolonged period of low interest rates that could lead to an asset bubble, although he said this was not a concern for now.
Another key challenge was the need to reduce reliance on consumption and deepen capital formation, the opposite of the needed economic restructuring in China, Roubini said.
After 2016, what?
He also acknowledged the need to increase the government’s tax take, improve the modest flow of foreign direct investment, improve per capita income, address pervasive rural poverty and be better prepared for natural disasters.
Further institution-building is also deemed necessary. “The fight against corruption has been successful but much more needs to be done,” Roubini said, citing “oligopoly” in some sectors.
Greater openness to foreign investment, he said, was one structural reform critical to preventing the concentration of economic power.
“Question is what will happen after 2016. People are going to be asking, ‘Is it just that?” Roubini said.
But the economist said there was a good chance that in 2016, Filipinos would vote for leaders who have the same reform agenda as that of the current administration given the gains being reaped currently.
Nonetheless, he said the country must assure potential investors of the sustainability of the ongoing reforms.
Roubini said the Philippines would have to invest more in infrastructure and human capital to attract more investments. He said public spending on healthcare and education should increase to enhance human capital.
But he said that the challenges were already being addressed by the government, and this should eventually convince credit rating firms and the international investment community that the positive momentum would be sustained.
(Story courtesy of Doris C. Dumlao, Michelle Remo of the Philippine Daily Inquirer)

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Hard work pays off for Pinoy chef in London

LONDON – A Filipino chef continues to look back at his humble beginnings that became the springboard to his successful career in London.
“Mahirap na masarap ang buhay ko kasi naging dishwasher ako, nawalan ako ng trabaho, buntis pa yung asawa ko hanggang nakuha ako ng Diamond Hotel,” said Chef Arlan Rivera.
During his stint at the Diamond Hotel in the Philippines, he became the Grand National champion in bartending.
His skills caught the attention of the managing director of Benihana Restaurant, a popular Japanese restaurant in the United Kingdom, and he was offered a job in 2007.
He has since worked for several other Japanese restaurants in the UK.
“Iba-iba na rin restaurant ang pinasukan ko,” he said.
Currently, Rivera is working as the executive chef of Savoy Hotel in London.
“Ang main job ko ngayon is Savoy Hotel, which is historical hotel dito sa London," he said.
Rivera recently gave a cooking lesson at the Saladmaster Healthy Cooking Program where his menu list was composed of a mix a mix of Chinese, Indian, African and Filipino food.
His climb to the top has become an inspiration to many Filipinos who also aspire to become successful in their own careers. Report from Babo Gamboa, ABS-CBN Europe News Bureau

Jessica Sanchez previews new song from album

MANILA, Philippines – Months before she releases her debut album, “American Idol” runner-up Jessica Sanchez gave her fans a treat by giving them a sneak preview of yet another new song which will appear in her disc.
During a ustream video chat with her supporters worldwide last Monday, Sanchez sang a couple of lines from a song which she said her fans will hear soon.
The video was uploaded by one of Sanchez’s fans on YouTube.
This is the second song from Sanchez’s album which she sang to her fans.
Last August, Sanchez debuted “Fairytale” during her American Idol iHeartRadio show in New York City.
While she had said in the past that her album will contain songs with an urban vibe and some R&B, “Fairytale” was not close to what a lot expected since it had more of a pop sound.
Sanchez, however, said she is hoping the people would still love it.
Meanwhile, “Idol” executive producer Nigel Lythgoe said on Twitter that Sanchez will be “doing her thing on the Idol stage this year.”
Earlier reports said Sanchez will launch her single during one of the live shows of "Idol."

Monday, January 28, 2013

GM Korea's first female CFO is Filipina

MANILA, Philippines - GM Korea, the South Korean unit of General Motors Co., has appointed Filipina Minerva Matibag as vice president and its first female chief financial officer.
Matibag will replace Carlos Zarlenga effective Feb. 1. 
The Korea Times last week reported Matibag will also serve as vice president and CFO for GM Vietnam and GM Uzbekistan. She currently holds the position of CFO at GM Brazil. 
"As GM Korea's first female CFO, she brings a wealth of experience in finance in Asia Pacific and North and South America to her important new position," GM Korea President and CEO Sergio Rocha has said.
Matibag has been with General Motors since 1997 and has held finance leadership positions for the firm's units in Singapore, Japan and Thailand. 
Zarlenga, meanwhile, will start serving as CFO for GM Brazil and GM South America effective Feb. 1. 

Philippines to host World Economic Forum in East Asia next year

The Philippines will take center stage when it hosts the World Economic Forum (WEF) in East Asia next year.
President Benigno S. Aquino III after his historic debut at the annual gathering of business and political leaders at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, said Manila has agreed to be the venue of the annual gathering of business and political leaders in East Asia that he hopes will promote the country to potential investors.
“We agreed to host the East Asia Summit for WEF in 2014 so which means it will be warmer climates than presently,” Aquino said after his meeting with WEF founder Klaus Schwab.
“Will it get us mileage? De?nitely. Of course, it will not be as widely attended as the one here in Davos. But again, it puts us at the center stage of the world map for that period, which is something like July or so,” he added.
Aquino said the details of the upcoming WEF on East Asia in Manila will still be worked out by the concerned parties.
With the hosting of the regional forum next year, the President said the Philippines can take pride of its economic achievements sustained by good governance.
“Especially now that, I think, we have a message that we want to share with everybody else. There are things that we can be proud of. We can participate in the world stage and not feeling ashamed or embarrassed,” he said.
He said the event would probably be bigger than the Asian Development Bank (ADB) annual meeting held in Manila last year.
In his remarks at the roundtable meeting with global business executives in Davos, Aquino invited bigwigs from all over the world to also consider the Philippines for leisure.
He said the Philippines is committed to continue eliminating corruption and institutionalizing reforms, invest in people and lure more investors.
“These are truly exciting times for our country. We are realizing the long-untapped potential of our country, and we are here to invite you to join us… We Filipinos have always been proud of the beauty of our country, and of the hospitality of our people, and we want to show them off, to attract even more tourists to our shores,” he said.
He told the meeting that the Philippines’ Department of Tourism has embarked on a campaign to show the world that “It’s More Fun in the Philippines.”
“And so many have taken notice. Publications like Conde Nast Traveller, the New York Times, and Travel + Leisure Magazine have cited the Philippines as a prime beach holiday destination,” Aquino said.
He said figures indicated that 4.3 million tourists visited the Philippines in 2012 – and they ended up returning after discovering even more reasons why it’s more fun in the country.
“Tourist arrivals which are a little short of our 4.6 million tourist target, which unfortunately was the result of some political tension in the region. In spite of this, though, China’s Oriental Morning Post named my country the ‘Best Tourist Destination’ in its annual World Travel Special Trips awards, and the Shanghai Morning Post identified the Philippines as the ‘Most Romantic Destination’ in the world – an award surely inspired by the magnificent sunsets over our numerous white sand beaches, or the pristine, secluded coves dotting our many islands,” Aquino told the delegates.
He said hotels have been sprouting up around the Philippines in the past two years, indicating the country’s tourism boom.
“In fact, I hear that an additional 1,599 rooms have been built in Boracay, one of our most popular beach destinations. So, whether you want to come to the Philippines for business or for leisure, we will gladly welcome you,” Aquino said.
Aquino said tourism and agriculture are specifically in his administration’s sights since they hold the country’s key strengths – an abundance of natural resources, for one – “and because they tend to spur growth all over the archipelago, not merely in the urbanized areas.”