2019, a good year?

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2019, a new year. 1 January on the Gregorian calendar, 5 February on the Chinese lunar calendar. It’s the Year of the Pig.

There are some who say the Year of the Pig is supposed to bring prosperity. On the other hand, there are those who say 2019 is full of uncertainties.

In the Philippines, 2019 started off with bad news from the devastation brought about by typhoon “Usman” and the bombing outside a shopping mall in Cotabato City. The news for the last two days news was dominated by the Traslacion, the annual procession of the Black Nazarene.

In the international scene, it was Brexit, the new Russian hypersonic missile, renewed tension between China and Taiwan, that were among the top of the news.

However, it was news from the United States that probably got the most attention worldwide — the government shutdown, the investigations on Russian involvement in the 2016 US presidential elections, President Trump’s border wall and developments on a possible US-China trade war.

What do we expect is in store for us in 2019?

In the Philippines, as far as political developments will be concerned, it will be the plebiscite for the Bangsamoro Organic Law scheduled on 21 January and 6 February that will capture the nation’s attention for the first two months of this year. After that, it will be the 13 May elections and their results that will catch the attention of the majority for the remainder of the first half of the year. Election time in the Philippines is a busy, festive period wherein many unfortunately put on the back burner what really matters — the economy, national security, social well-being and concentrates on political personalities and the jovial atmosphere that goes with Philippine elections.

The Holy Week period and the summer season add to the vacation atmosphere for the first half of the year.

The results of the May 2019 elections should bring no surprises. It will be the old political personalities and families that will dominate the elections. We do not have a scenario, as in the US, of the opposition party taking control of Congress or the local governments.

The latter part of the year would be the usual for any new Congress — new bills, new initiatives, but nothing really that can be finished within the year.

Sports fever will hit the Philippines in the latter part of the year, with the country’s hosting of the 30th Southeast Asian (SEA) Games on 30 November. This two-week event, participated in by the 11 Southeast Asian nations will bring the country together, cheering for our athletes who hope to win the gold for the Philippines. Let us hope and pray that we finish first as we did when we last hosted the SEA Games in 2005, but realistically, it will be quite difficult. However, we will definitely do better than the sixth-place finish we had in Malaysia in 2017.

After the SEA Games, it will be Christmas once again. Christmas in the Philippines unofficially starts in September and has been dubbed one of the longest holiday seasons in the world.

Well, with the elections, our early Christmas season and the Southeast Asian Games in late November till the second week of December, the country will be in a festive atmosphere most of 2019.

For the Philippine economy, it will be a booming year for infrastructure. The government will definitely push its “Build, Build, Build” program. Even if it does not hit its target for the year, the sheer number of projects in the pipeline will generate an enormous amount of economic activity. Given also that this is an election year, we can expect infrastructure projects to be frontloaded to the first half of the year.

The number of private sector infrastructure projects in line is likewise considerable. As developers will take advantage of the summer months, construction will be expected to commence in the first half of the year.

The reopening of Boracay in the latter part of October last year should also bring a boost to tourism and economic activity.

Though there will definitely be a boost in economic activity and our growth rate will remain one of the highest in the region, we will still have to keep watch over the effects of the increase in excise tax from the second tranche of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion or TRAIN law, possible problems in agriculture that caused inflation to rise last year, and other factors that will ultimately impact on the cost of living and hit the common tao hardest.

There are likewise outside factors that will impact on the political and economic landscape in the Philippines. The price of oil is one of the major factors that affect our country. The threat of regional conflict is another. There are likewise political and economic policies of the US that can affect worldwide markets. All of these are beyond our control in the Philippines.

In every year, there are both good and bad events that affect the nation. There are events we can control and there are those that we cannot. It is up to us to maximize the effects of the good and mitigate the bad. Ultimately, 2019 will be what we make of it.
Let us all try to make 2019 a good year for the Philippines.

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