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I'm not in the mood to look at too many e-mails today. Each one is usually very different from the rest, and each time I open one, I find that I have to twist my brain to look at another point of view as objectively as I can. Needless to say, I just closed my inbox.

Instead I want to discuss some points many people are curious about: The economy in the Philippines. Basically we're a service based economy with a growing focus on tourism. With respect to tourism, the biggest attractions are balikbayans visiting relatives, followed by the sex industry (the least admitted), and finally regular people exploring history or enjoying the beaches bringing up the rear. The other growing focus is on the outsourcing industry as many of you regular readers understand.  This has doubled annually for the last 3 years and will likely continue.  So with all of this growth most of you are wondering where this economy is headed and will it join the rest of the "Asian tigers"?

I say "yes", but only if you take a long-term perspective. A few people I know have already made a ton of money in the stock market here. My Filipino-American friend bought PLDT shares for about 200 Pesos back in May of 2003 and sold it last year for 1500 Pesos. Now he's into PLTL and it has doubled his money again. I think the guy who is now 28 is worth over $1,000,000 after starting with $70,000 two years ago. But one of the most interesting things to note is that while the value of the Dollar dropped about 30% last year, the value of the Peso didn't slide. It's still worth about the same amount when compared to the Euro. So not only did he make all that money in the stock market here, his money is in Pesos...and the Peso has appreciated in the past year while the Dollar is in the toilet.

That's another thing that people are curious about...the value of the Peso. From my research online, I believe that the Peso is one of the most undervalued currencies in the world. It was 40 to 1 before Estrada was booted out of office and settled at about 50 to 1 following that. Political instability has keep the Peso weak...but it has bottomed out, more or less. From what I can understand, the Peso should be priced at about 30-35 to 1 against the Dollar. This is of interest to many Filipinos, so many of us follow the trend of where our money is going, and whether or not we should save in Dollars. Obviously we won't get that 30:1 ratio until we clean up the corruption and stabilize the government. But it's my opinion that once these things are taken care of, the Philippines and its investors will find themselves sitting on a goldmine.

The Philippines is a very wealthy country, with its people making up the greatest asset. It's just a matter of putting everything through a strainer and throwing the "crap" we strain into the garbage where it belongs.

May 21, 2005

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