Additional OFW remittances to help families back home cope with higher consumer prices

Philippine consumer prices rose 4.6 percent in May, the fastest in four years, weighing on household expenditures. (Reuters)
Updated 05 June 2018
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Additional OFW remittances to help families back home cope with higher consumer prices

DUBAI: Overseas Filipino workers should consider sending additional remittances back home as a temporary back-up for their families as they deal with elevated consumer prices, and the Philippine government’s refusal to rule out the possibility of steep price hikes until year end, a migrant labor expert said.
“The prices of commodities [in the Philippines], from food to fuel, have gone up so maybe OFWs should consider sending an additional 10 percent or even 20 percent to their families especially if they can afford to do so. Everything has gone up,” Emmanuel S. Geslani said in a telephone interview with Arab News.
“The increase in oil prices [on the world market] had a domino effect on the prices of consumer items, and adding financial pressure to OFW families as it is again enrolment season and they have to pay tuition fees for their kids who go to school,” Geslani added. “I know some OFWs may also be in a difficult situation in their workplaces, but for those who can afford to send additional support, maybe they should do so.”
The government on Tuesday said headline inflation rose 4.6 percent in May — versus 2.9 percent of the same month last year — driven mainly by price increases in fish and seafood, fuel and lubricants and bread and cereals. Average inflation during the five-month stretch was at 4.1 percent, just above the government’s 2 percent to 4 percent target for the year.
“The major catalysts include higher global crude oil prices at 3.5-year highs recently; the TRAIN Law that increased taxes on fuel and other goods and services; weaker peso exchange rate and higher local rice prices,” Michael L. Ricafort, head of the economics and industry research division at Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation, told Arab News. “These factors resulted in second-round inflation effects in terms of upward adjustments in the prices of affected goods and services.”
It is a bit of consolation though as Ruben Carlo O. Asuncion, chief economist at Union Bank of the Philippines’ corporate research unit, expected last month’s consumer price basket to rise by 4.9 percent.
“However, it came in at 4.6 percent. Although it is the fastest in 4 years, it is still softer compared to expectations and slower than the previous months' expansions,” Asuncion said.
Legislators and vested groups have earlier called for the suspension of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion law, which reduced personal income tax rates but raised the excise tax on petroleum products and automobiles, after crude oil price hit $80 a barrel in global trading and consumer prices spiked.
Their clamor was hinged on the notion that ultimately households were bearing the burden of TRAIN’s immediate effects on the economy. Previous surveys have estimated that one of every 10 Filipino households have at last one family member working overseas, whose cash remittances reached $28.1 billion in 2017.
The government economic team however was confident that inflation would taper off towards the end of 2018, even as it rejected the calls for the TRAIN law’s suspension.
“Though the 4.1 percent year-to-date inflation rate is slightly above the [government] target, we are still striking distance … there is no need to adjust inflation targets,” Benjamin E. Diokno, the secretary of budget and management, said during a press briefing on Tuesday. “There is consensus among the economic managers that inflation will taper off.”
“Suspending TRAIN and adopting other band-aid solutions will only have a minimal and short-term impact on inflation and will stifle our growth, further delaying our nation’s progress toward becoming an upper-middle-income country by 2019, such that around six million Filipinos would be lifted out of poverty by 2022,” Diokno added.
Still, both Asuncion and Ricafort see inflation rates to remain elevated for the most part of the year before reverting back to pre-TRAIN levels by 2019.
“Inflation could start to normalize lower in 2019, around January and February, exactly a year after the effectivity of the TRAIN Law,” Ricafort added.


New Zealand to conduct own assessment of Huawei equipment risk

Updated 18 February 2019
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New Zealand to conduct own assessment of Huawei equipment risk

  • Huawei faces intense scrutiny in the West over its relationship with the Chinese government
  • Several Western countries had restricted Huawei’s access to their markets

WELLINGTON: New Zealand will independently assess the risk of using China’s Huawei Technologies in 5G networks, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Monday after a report suggested that British precautions could be used by other nations.
Huawei, the world’s biggest producer of telecoms equipment, faces intense scrutiny in the West over its relationship with the Chinese government and US-led allegations that its equipment could be used by Beijing for spying.
No evidence has been produced publicly and the firm has repeatedly denied the allegations, which have led several Western countries to restrict Huawei’s access to their markets.
The Financial Times reported on Sunday that the British government had decided it can mitigate the risks arising from the use of Huawei equipment in 5G networks. It said Britain’s conclusion would “carry great weight” with European leaders and other nations could use similar precautions.
New Zealand’s intelligence agency in November rejected an initial request from telecommunications services provider Spark to use 5G equipment provided by Huawei.
At the time, the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) gave Spark options to mitigate national security concerns over the use of Huawei equipment, Ardern said on Monday.
“The ball is now in their court,” she told a weekly news conference.
Ardern said New Zealand, which is a member of the Five Eyes intelligence sharing network that includes the United Kingdom and the United States, would conduct its own assessment.
“I would expect the GCSB to apply with our legislation and our own security assessments. It is fair to say Five Eyes, of course, share information but we make our own independent decisions,” she said.
Huawei New Zealand did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Spark said it was in discussions with GCSB officials.
“We are working through what possible mitigations we might be able to provide to address the concerns raised by the GCSB and have not yet made any decision on whether or when we should submit a revised proposal to GCSB,” Spark spokesman Andrew Pirie said in an emailed statement.
The Huawei decision, along with the government’s tougher stance on China’s growing influence in the Pacific, has some politicians and foreign policy analysts worried about potential strained ties with a key trading partner.
Ardern’s planned first visit to Beijing has faced scheduling issues, and China last week postponed a major tourism campaign in New Zealand days before its launch.
Ardern said her government’s relationship with China was strong despite some complex issues.
“Visits are not a measure of the health of a relationship they are only one small part of it,” she said, adding that trade and tourism ties remained strong.