We Are Off!

The electoral season has begun. Monday May 9, 2022 could be the most important date in our history. The election is for all the marbles or what marbles still remain after the virus and the economy are done with us.

1Sambayan, a rainbow coalition led by ex-Justice Tony Carpio, fired the first salvo. This Council of Luminaries seeks to unify a candidate for President. It does not include any notable yellows. The Administration says now is not the time for politics even as it lays its own groundwork.

There are many moving parts to a presidential election. Next year’s is unique with its backdrop of the pandemic and the economic crisis. Here are some of the variables ranked not necessarily by order of importance and how they could play to either side:

  1. The economy- As Bill Clinton famously said: “(Elections) are about the economy, stupid!”. NEDA predicts our economy will recover late this year -its nth iteration- which may just save the day for the Administration’s candidates (the Administration). To be sure of that, the Palace could well unleash a Bayanihan 3 or even 4 stimulus over the body of DOF. Sec. Dominguez. It may not be enough if the DOH continues its merry ways. Advantage the Administration if NEDA is right, the Opposition otherwise.
  1. The virus – COVID could be the king maker in 2022. At its current pace the DOH could single handedly deliver the elections to the Opposition. On the other hand the health protocols will hamper efforts by the challengers to organize, to conduct rallies and to raise monies from depleted corporate coffers. With enough help from the DOH, advantage the Opposition.
  1. The vaccine – The vaccine is politically a double edged sword. The Administration controls the cards but could overplay its hand like finessing the vaccine deliveries for political gain. If properly handled the vaccine could be a boon (ask Boris Johnson), if not a bust (ask the EU leaders). Supplies are not the only limiting factor. Vaccine storage, distribution, and inoculation is complicated. If the IATF could not figure out testing and tracing it is unlikely to figure out a vaccine roll out. Advantage the Opposition.
  1. The power of the incumbent – A sitting Administration has many resources. It can influence the electoral process. It can bring its regulatory and fiscal reach to bear on business donors while denying the other side. No business wants to be the next ABS-CBN or water company. It has the LGU network. It has unlimited free air time from Government owned TV networks and the traditional news feeds. The Opposition has no such free passes. Advantage the Administration.
  1. The public mood – Voters decide elections. More than anything else, they want hope and hope means change. Administration candidates represent the status quo, the anti-thesis of change. This explains why Administrations rarely repeat. Advantage the Opposition.
  1. Money – Elections are largely about the Golden Rule, he who has the gold rules. Incumbents have many cows they can milk both organically -pork barrel, Philhealth, kick backs- and externally. COVID has decimated corporate coffers so there is less to go around for the Opposition. Advantage the Administration.
  1. Organization – Elections are about the air game for messaging and marketing and the ground game for logistics. The Administration has loads of free air time. It has the LGU network for its ground operations. The Opposition will have to pay for its expensive TV broadcasts and rely more on radio and social media for its air time. For its ground game it will have to build on the remnants of the yellow machinery; and NGOs. Advantage the Administration.
  2. Timing – As they say in life timing is everything. The Administration has the luxury of time, the Opposition does not. COVID has narrowed the election window. Advantage the Administration.
  1. The “descarte” – The number of aspirants could determine whether a plurality is enough to win. The Administration is likely to field a unified slate while the opposition could be spread over several competing interests. The Administration might sponsor “opposition” candidates to split the vote. Advantage the Administration.
  1. The polls – Polls are money gathering machines. Political contributions will flow to the more electable candidates. With limited budgets only the front-runners will see any monies. But again, as we witnessed with Trump in 2016, polls can be misleading: The key is voter turn out and here is where the ground game kicks in. Advantage the Administration.
  1. Foreign participation – The U.S. and China could play a financial role in the electoral outcome, the former for the Opposition, the latter for the Administration. China has the bigger wallet and more at stake but the U.S. has the public’s sympathy. China support is a political liability at this point although its vaccine diplomacy could turn sentiment around. Advantage the Opposition but this could change with Sinovac.
  1. The candidates- A compelling candidate could overcome some if not all the financial and organizational handicaps. A strong  showing in the polls could attract the serious money and ground troops. He/she must have a unique story and the ability to tell it well. Policy credentials are not essential. A standard bearer must be able to win in a multi-candidate race as well as head-to head against its counter part.
  1. A Black Swan – The Administration is dependent on the President remaining healthy until May 2022. If not all bets are off.

On the face of it and it is early days, the Administration has the advantages going into May 2022. However historically incumbents struggle to repeat. COVID, the vaccines and the economy could tip the race.

Much will rest on the candidates themselves particularly for the Opposition which is doing the catching up. 1Sambayan has come up with four selection criteria; Integrity, upright status on key issues, platform and electability with no indication of respective weightings. This feels like Otso Diretso 2.0 but maybe there are lessons learnt.

 The Opposition has to come up with somebody who ideally is not too bruised, has the energy, the charisma, the courage, the story, the integrity, the record and the trust to deliver. Does he/she even exist? Does one take a chance with a new face rather than a trusted, recycled one?

The Opposition has to decide what it wants, to oust the Administration at any cost with any candidate or select the best person on paper? If the former, the first and arguably only criteria is winnability. This means it has to take risks on the three other metrics. It is a tough call.

For the Administration its candidate must be able to leverage the Duterte brand which despite all remains formidable; shed the worse of the status quo, overcome what could be a weak economy while delivering a promise of hope and change. In subsequent articles we can examine who seems best to juggle these competing narratives.

Medical Genocide

Just when I thought our health official(s) were at the end of their senses, they took it to a new level. They never cease to amaze me.

I refer to the DOH’s latest proposal to bar infant milk manufacturers, tobacco firms, sugar and other industries in conflict “with the public interest” from procuring the COVID vaccine for their workers. They forgot to include the liquor, trans-fat food and carbonated drink industries. And why stop there? Why not include consumers of such products? That should take care of 90% of the population and save us a lot of money and headaches.

Seriously? Our health experts believe millions of Filipinos should be excluded from life-saving inoculations simply because they work in industries deemed unhealthy? These workers are struggling to make a living which is more than what can be said of our health officials many of whom are laughing all the way to the bank. 

Who dreams up these things? I can just imagine their meetings: “Guys, we are under pressure. After we have carved out our share, there are not enough vaccines to go around. Who can we allow to die to lessen the problem?”

The U.N. Genocide Convention defines genocide as “acts committed to destroy a national group by imposing conditions to bodily and mentally destroy such groups.” The DOH directive arguably meets this definition.

To be fair, in the course of history there have been others with similar notions, the idea we should sacrifice some for the sake of the collective good. Think Hitler and the extermination of six million Jews to preserve the Aryan race, or the Burmese and the Rohingyas, or the Serbs and the Bosnians,  or the Turks and the Armenians, or the Rwandan Hutus and the Tutsis.

The DOH was presumably responding to the spike in COVID cases, now at a record 8,000/day and projected by OCTA Research, an independent analytics firm, to rise to 20,000 by April. To which Health Secretary Francisco Duque had this to say, dismissively: “Ganu’n talaga, e. We have to bounce. Parang cha-cha-cha e, one step back, two steps forward.” Mr. Secretary, Sir, we are back to GCQ so it is actually the other way around, two steps back, one step forward.

The reactions of our elected representatives were surprisingly circumspect even from those who in the past have been intolerant of stupidity: Sen. Imee Marcos from the tobacco growing region of Ilocos: “The (DOH) proposal is onerous”. Rep. Stella Quimbo: “I urge the DOH to review their proposed policies.” So much for political correctness. 

DFA Sec. Locsin seemingly alluded to Sec. Duque when referencing a “village idiot”; which I thought was more like it.

There are reportedly enough vaccines to inoculate 80% of the world’s population. Most of it goes to the richer countries leaving only some 25% for developing nations. Here we are struggling to vaccinate 1% of Filipinos.

The elephant in the room, the existential question on all our lips is why the Government continues to ban the private sector from procuring for their workers a vaccine outside of Tripartite Agreements. To recall the latter allows private companies to acquire vaccines provided, one, 50% of it goes to the Government and, two, the  DOH has the prerogative to allocate said vaccines as it pleases. This is effectively a 50% tax on the vaccine with no assurance one can actually get one’s hand on it.

Here are possible reasons for the private sector ban:

  1. Government must prioritize certain sectors like front liners and seniors. It does not want to compete with private companies for access to a scarce resource. However there are supplies available from off-line sources. For example there are reportedly in Dubai millions of commercially available doses at $26/dose. Even at this price many businessmen are prepared to secure these for their workers but are prevented from doing so by the DOH. They have also offered to donate these directly to LGUs but the DOH has nixed the proposal.
  2. The DOH must ensure the vaccines are safe for public use. This can be overcome by verifying the health certifications from the suppliers.
  3. The pharma companies are only authorized to deal with Governments.
  4. The Government wants control over the supply because the vaccines will be used for political campaigning. There is an unconfirmed report that several million Chinese vaccines were on their way to us but were diverted to a couple of our Asian neighbors because out Government would not issue the Emergency Use Authority. The supplier was reportedly asked to defer the shipment to October which coincidentally is when the election season begins with the filing of Certificates of Candidacy. Are vaccines being timed so certain candidates can claim credit for them?
  5. A monopoly on imports is essential to the business model of corrupt Government officials.

The private sector is doing its best to overcome the failures of the DOH. Companies like Zuellig are offering to manage the whole supply chain from procurement, transportation, storage, distribution to inoculation; but their efforts are stalled for reasons that are becoming evident by the day.

After a year of suffering, the Philippines is close to a breaking point from a combination of a surging and uncontrollable pandemic, an economy on its knees and a DOH that is playing games with our lives. Our health leaders are holding this country hostage, playing God in ways that now are alarming and some might say criminal. This is bigger than drugs, bigger than the Communist insurgency, bigger than all the threats, real or contrived, that we are told menace us. Yet nobody is held to account. The silence from the Palace is deafening.

Thousands are dying and going to die from the virus or starvation across our country. We can choose to ignore it but just know we are now in a battle for the existence of our nation.

The Definition Of A Nightmare

“Austerity does not instill confidence, it just imposes pain.” – Paul Krugman, Nobel Prize Economist

Economies, I was taught, are governed by the two tools of fiscal and monetary policy. 

The Dept. of Finance sets fiscal policy. It budgets Government spending and taxes that define public finances and impact private consumption and investment. Fiscal policy is the Government’s most powerful economic tool.

Central Banks set monetary policy. CBs control the money supply which affects inflation, bank liquidity and short term interest rates. These influence bank lending to businesses and consumers. CBs guide the foreign exchange rate.

COVID introduced a third economic tool and it is health policy. Public health is part of Government’s tool chest but like environmental policy was never considered a subject of economic interest. The pandemic changed all that. Today health policy has dwarfed fiscal and monetary policy as the primary force in our economy. 

So here is where it gets ugly.

In the last year the Philippines has suffered its worst economic and humanitarian crisis since its independence not because of the deficiencies in fiscal and monetary policy but principally because of the abject failure of our health policies. Despite the world’s longest and most severe lockdown, the Philippines has the worst economic and health record certainly among our neighbors and will be the last to emerge – if we do at all – from the hole we are in. The economy contracted by 9% last year with the prospects of recovery being pushed further and further out. Meantime China is on its way to over 7% growth, Thailand to up to 11%.

It is not supposed to work this way.

The DOF has been accused of being overly conservative in its stimulus and maybe so but this comes not from incompetence or corruption. Economic management is as much a philosophy as it is a science. Sec. Dominguez has made a judgement call, only history will tell whether he is right. He believes in fiscal prudence and one has to give him that. It is all in good faith.

The BSP has by and large made the correct moves: It has increased liquidity to encourage bank lending but in the Keynesian terminology it is pushing on a string. The BSP can bring the banks to the water but cannot force them to drink. Banks will lend to the private sector not on the basis of what the BSP wants or businesses and consumers need but whether they will be repaid and right now they believe most companies are too damaged to do that. Banks are not beholden to the public, they are responsible to their depositors, their shareholders and their bonus pools.

The BSP has disappointed many in its foreign exchange approach.Through policy guidance and management of its international reserves, it could have weakened the peso to enhance the dollar earnings of OFWs and attract foreign investments; but it chose not to. It prefers the market dictate the peso rate. Again, one can question its judgement but not its competence or integrity. Gov. Diokno calls it as he sees it and we must respect him for that. 

Unfortunately this cannot be said of our health policies. They are an accident waiting to happen but do not take my word for it: Makati Medical Center, Cardinal Santos and PGH among others are overflowing with COVID cases. Our daily pandemic numbers are at record highs. People the world over are planning their summer vacations while our health officials are forbidding seniors and their grandsons from taking a stroll.

Where did our public health go wrong?

Incompetence, check. Corruption, check. Miscommunication, check. Opaqueness, check. Arrogance, check. Unaccountability, check.

We bungled our vaccine procurement. Pfizer vaccines that had been allocated to us – now  diverted to Singapore – were lost because somebody failed to sign some Non Disclosure Agreement. Even today we are struggling with vaccine supplies because that same person reportedly refuses to sign the necessary documents for fear of being sued or whatever. There could also be something more nefarious. 

In the U.S. the CDC allows persons who have been vaccinated to mingle openly even with those not vaccinated. European and other countries are allowing incoming passengers to arrive with no restrictions as long as they have been inoculated prior to departure. In our case we do not distinguish between vaccinated and non-vaccinated arrivals, all have to go through the same  protocol of a five day quarantine in a Government designated center and a PCR test after. This additional layer of inconvenience is discouraging tourism. 

The IATF has limited the number of passenger arrivals to 1,500/day, for PAL 500/day, the equivalent of two plane loads. Arrivals in normal times was 10,000.

Overseas workers with committed contracts are not given priorities in vaccination (after front liners) stranding them and depriving them of a meaningful livelihood and the country valuable foreign exchange. Our OFW remittances have been steadily declining over the months.

Trust in the DOH is so low many of its health workers refuse to be vaccinated.

The IATF does not work smart, it works heavy. They over-engineer solutions to straight forward problems. Think taking a hammer to swat a fly. After a while, the room is demolished but the fly is still there. We are the room, COVID is the fly.

As for the corruption – Philhealth, over priced PPEs, questionable equipment purchases, delayed vaccines – let us not even go there, please.

Despite the abject failures of our health leaders and their policies, Government has mandated they take precedence over the economy and the education of our children. We are between a rock and a hard place, a growing health crisis and a dying economy.

Why are our leaders letting it happen before their very eyes? Why do we continue to entrust the fate of our country, our jobs, our health and our sanity to officials who have proven time and again they are incapable of the task? Everybody knows who they are and yet they continue to spin us, ignore us and punish us. They are not held to account because there is “no probable cause”. 

A friend sent me this post: “Nalilito ako: May curfew sa gabi para daw makaiwas sa COVID, pero sa umaga ang daming tao sa labas. Ano ba ang virus, nightshift?”

This sums up our health protocols: Sensible some of the time, crazy most of the time.

And we are not done yet. That is the definition of a nightmare.


(In Dec. 2020 I was elected to the Board of PAL. As such I can be accused of bias and anything I say hence can and will be used against me in the court of public opinion. The following are my personal views and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of PAL, its management, its Board and its shareholders.)

Should PAL be assisted by Government? Lucio Tan (LT) is a wealthy man, why help him when so many others are in need? Is this throwing good money after bad? PAL is said to have been mis-managed, why rescue a dysfunctional organization? Was PAL being milked by spinning off its profitable segments? Where is the public interest?

These are valid questions that need be addressed.

I. Saving PAL, the public interest – The aviation industry is vital to our economic recovery. It is the foundation of our tourism industry which directly accounts for an estimated 12% of the economy, over 5 million jobs and more through the multiplier effects. Aviation is the rail to local and international commerce. PAL is a bridge for our OFWs. It repatriated our stranded Filipinos when the pandemic set in. It wil be responsible for ferrying in the vaccine. PAL is our national flag carrier, it is the third most recognized brand locally, It is our face to the world. The recently passed CREATE House bill recognized essential industries like aviation must be saved.

The following neighboring airlines have received financial support: Thai Airways ($11 billion), Singapore Airlines ($10.8 billion), Cathay Pacific ($5 billion), Malaysian Airlines ($500 million). Requests for public assistance from Cebu Pacific and PAL combined is less than $500 million which is 1/20th of similar assistance to Thai and SIA individually. Cebu Pacific recently announced it had secured a P16 billion bank financing which included DBP and Land Bank, the two Government Financial Institutions (GFIs). PAL should be equally assisted to ensure healthy competition.

II. Why assist Lucio Tan, a wealthy man?- Prior to COVID, PAL had not asked assistance from GFIs. However COVID19 was an exogenous event that devastated economies in general and aviation industries in particular.

In 2020 PAL could report a loss of over $500 million dollars. LT could walk away from this problem given his status in life. While large, PAL is a fraction of his business empire. But he is adamant the airline cannot be abandoned, it is too essential to our economy. Despite the advise of those around him, in the last 18 months LT continued to infuse several hundred millions dollars into PAL but more is needed straining even the deepest of pockets.

III. Throwing away good money – As a former CEO of PAL, DOF Sec.Dominguez does not want to be seen as unduly favoring the company and rightfully so. Sonny has stated Government can help PAL but under certain conditions. These are the same conditions I outlined in this blog almost a year ago:

  1. PAL must show viability – At considerable expense PAL commissioned Seabury, a unit of the international consulting firm, Accenture, to do a complete review of PAL’s operations, routes, and aircraft mix. Seabury specializes in aviation restructurings having advised a number of distressed companies like Aeromexico, Avianca and others. Seabury’s recommendations are the foundation of PAL’s Recovery Plan that has been presented to its creditors. 
  2. PAL must be run professionally – A new CEO, Gilbert Sta. Maria, was headhunted and joined the company in late 2019. Two Tan family members gave up their seats in the PAL board to make way for independent directors who now make up a third of the Board and who chair the company’s critical oversight committees of Audit, Governance and Restructuring.
  3. All stakeholders must share the burden – In the last 18 months LT has infused several hundred million dollars into PAL and has committed to more, the latest being a $60 million injection to pay for the proper separation of 2,300 employees and refund of passengers whose bookings were cancelled because of COVID. Creditors representing over 90% of liabilities have unofficially signed off on the Recovery Plan despite having to take significant haircuts. PAL employees have accepted the retrenchments with little friction. PAL directors receive no financial compensation other than a free vaccine. Everybody connected to PAL is taking a hit.
  4. A Government rescue must protect taxpayers’ money and earn a return commensurate to the risks – The family has offered GFIs valuable collateral for the loans being requested at market interest rates equivalent to that to its private banks.

PAL has met Government’s prerequisites. This is not a bail-out, there is no sweetheart deal. If PAL does not make it, the GFIs will with their collateral do well for themselves.

IV. PAL, a milking cow – This conspiracy theory that the company has been cannibalized makes no sense. Why would LT drain a company while re-infusing millions to save it? Certain functions were spun off like aircraft maintenance but this was because this is better handled by a joint venture with Lufthansa. Safety is an over-riding concern of PAL.

IV. A dysfunctional organization – PAL has been accused of being sub-optimally run. The management culture was being changed under Bong Tan, Lucio’s son, but he passed away. The burden of leadership is now slowly being assumed by Bong’ s eldest son Lucio III, 29, a bright, un-entitled, respectful, hard working, double major summa cum laude from Stanford University who until the death of his father worked quietly in a U.S. tech company. LTIII is currently successfully earning his stripes running Tanduay, one of the family companies. I am confident that once in stride he will bring a new management ethos to the LT Group in general and PAL in particular.

PAL has put together the various elements for its recovery: A new management, a more transparent and accountable Board, a recovery plan that has been vetted by experts, a slimmed down work force, an agreement with the vast majority of its creditors, and new money from shareholders and private banks. The last piece in the puzzle is counterpart funding from Government on terms that are as secure and profitable as those offered private lenders. PAL is hopeful the GFIs will provide the same support and urgency extended to Cebu Pacific.

PAL will continue to fly with safety and customer experience as its top priorities. Once its GFI financing is in place the company may seek a court approved reorganization that will ensure PAL is given the time to show proof of concept. Unlike Chapter 7 which is a liquidation process, a Chapter 11 filing is a path to viability with all stakeholder interests in mind.

The aviation industry does not expect to fully recover for at least another three years so while companies like PAL are still not out of the woods, they should be allowed every means to fulfill their essential role in the recovery of our economy.

Happy Birthday, COVID?

It has been a year of living dangerously. 

COVID upended all notions of what is normal. Never could we have imagined what a black swan could look like, the devastation to the health, social and economic landscape of the world.

 As of date 2.6 million have died worldwide. In the Philippines we lost over P2 trillion in GDP, 7-10 million in jobs some forever, hundreds of thousands of businesses closed, 15-21% of Filipinos now living below the poverty line, over 22 million kids deprived of proper learning, banks defaults doubling, essential corporates like PAL on the brink, tourism wiped out, 12,404 dead.

That is the stuff that can be measured. What cannot be measured is the impact to our individual and collective psyches. We will not be the same persons coming out of the crisis that we were going in. 

On the plus side we have learnt to live with less, not as obsessed with accumulation and consumption of things we do not need. We have become more aware of ourselves, of our humanity and the humanity in others. We learnt how personal responsibility translates to collective security. We have become closer to those we love. Through the masks we smile at strangers. We have become, I believe, kinder and gentler.

On the minus side we have become fearful and more tentative. The mental scarring even among the young has gone undetected and could be permanent if untreated. Schools are reporting inclinations to self inflict, loss of confidence and depression among teenagers. 

Covid raised issues of governments, their competence, integrity, care, urgency, cowardice to do more, power, manipulation, failed promises, and hypocrisy of regulators in the rules they themselves flaunt,

Despite its carnage, COVID surprisingly did not disrupt politics except for Trump who was a defeat waiting to happen. Controversial leaders like Bolsonaro, Erdogan and Duterte saw their popularity undiminished. Perhaps it was the Stockholm Syndrome at work.

COVID upended public finances the world over. Governments have blown through deficits and debt discarding credit metrics once deemed sacred. U.S. money supply last year increased by 25% with more to come. Europe has gone beyond its self-imposed budgetary limits as with other fiscally responsible nations.

This has raised alarms of whether all this stimulus is fiscally sustainable, whether the combination of expansive budgets and lower tax revenues can hold up, whether sovereign debt particularly of the U.S. can ever be repaid. The answer with respect to the latter is yes. As the world’s prime reserve currency the Federal Reserve can always monetize its debt, printing enough dollars to repay its obligations. Other nations do not have that luxury.

The massive monetary expansion could have dangerous consequences on inflation, investments and the economy. Already the U.S. ten year yield, now around 1.5%, has doubled in the last few months with expectations of more. There could be a run on the dollar as it is debased threatening its role as the world’s premier reserve currency.

This raises issues of how long fiat or paper currency in general and the U.S. dollar in particular can continue to be a proper store of value and whether an alternative asset is needed. Gold is an option as it has through centuries but its bulkiness, storability, immobility, interoperability and incompatibility with technology; makes it unsuitable for the safe, cheap, and fast payment systems needed in our increasingly digital world.

Enter Bitcoin (BTC) which is the digital equivalent of gold. COVID has fostered an unprecedented interest in BTC as a safe and robust unit of account and store of value.

BTC was born from the 2008/09 financial crisis so this time is no different but we are still in the early stages of assimilation. BTC has a market value of just under $1 trillion which is only half the market cap of Apple and a fraction of gold ($10 trillion), USD money supply ($83 trillion), equities and bonds (both over $100 trillion). There are accounting, legal, tax and regulatory issues that are deterring mass institutional adoption. However, despite wide skepticism as a bubble or a Ponzi scheme or  blood money, cryptos have already gone mainstream. BTC is being discussed in corporate board rooms. Respected public companies, pension and mutual funds, and money managers are increasingly on-boarding BTCs now that its market cap has passed the $1 trillion market cap and there is liquidity. Major banks are now accepting stable coins for deposit and settlement.

Central banks are not loading cryptos onto their reserves but the subject is actively debated because they represent both a threat to and an opportunity for monetary policy. In the confirmation hearings of U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yelling and SEC Chairman Gary Gansler, cryptos was the subject most of interest to legislators.

The issue in my opinion is no longer whether cryptos will survive but how and when it will be managed from a regulatory point of view. Should BTC gain traction in a scale that makes it comparable to other asset classes like gold, stocks and cash, its price is projected to rise ten fold in the next 5 years even at its current lofty valuations. This raises an interesting albeit outrageous point.

The Philippines has as of Sept. 2020 $97 billion in international reserves of which $12.6 billion or 13% is in gold; and some $110 billion in foreign debt as of late. If the BSP was to replace its gold with BTC and BTC was to appreciate to its projected value; in 5 years we would be able to erase all our foreign debt while still preserving  87% of our reserves! This may sound outlandish but not if you knew BTC has since inception appreciated by some 5,000 times and in the last year alone by 5 times. Should these happen BSP Gov. Diokno could well be hailed as the greatest central banker of all time.

COVID accelerated by a few years our adoption of technology. Today technology is reconfiguring our societies, social interaction and modes of organization just as the printing press, electricity and the telephone  ushered the industrial revolution, automobiles the social and the internet the digital one (Anecdotally at its inception the internet was discredited as simply a source for porn but now dictates all our lives).

COVID forced us to recognize change is upon us faster, bigger and in more fundamental ways than we think. It raised existential questions as to who we are as individuals and communities, the political and economic institutions we deserve, and the mind set we need to stay ahead of the dynamic. The issue is whether we embrace the changes or we revert to past norms and be left stranded at the station.

COVID made us view things with a different lens and for that we may want to wish it a happy birthday even as we really, really hope it is its last one.