POSTSCRIPT / November 22, 2016 / Tuesday


Opinion Columnist

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Trump flip-flops keep Phl guessing

VANCOUVER – It is not clear if incoming US President Donald Trump would keep his campaign promises, so United States partners like the Philippines should prepare for the eventuality that the Donald might just do some of the horrible things he had threatened to do.

Trump has his own share of policy flip-flops — which is normal, especially for a strong-willed non-politician who ran and won without the full support of his Grand Old Party.

Will he kick out undocumented Filipinos together with 11 million other undesirable (to him) aliens? Will he pressure US companies to pull out from other countries like the Philippines and relocate home? Will he revamp trade contracts that are working fine for Filipino exporters but not for American consumers? Will he cut US foreign aid and demand that the Philippines pay for US military assistance?

These are some questions culled from some of his intentions announced during the campaign. He has revised some of them and might continue to change them even after his inauguration on Jan. 20. See:

Running on a promise to “drain the swamp” and give back to the citizens the system that he said had been taken away from them, Trump pledged to build a wall – physical and psychological barriers — to keep away alien elements eating away at the values that have made America great.

 Harsh steps against undesirable aliens

WHAT is President Rodrigo Duterte doing to shore up the economy and keep it from sliding if/when some of Trump’s white-supremacy notions become policy with the collaboration of the Republican-controlled Congress?

Some of Trump’s plans that could have harsh economic effects:

> Build a 2,500-mile wall on the border with Mexico then throw out some 11 million aliens (including some Filipinos, we presume) staying illegally while competing for jobs and social security benefits.

> Ban immigration from areas that have a “proven history of terrorism” against the US, the European Union and its allies. For some reason the Philippines was included in the list.

> End “birthright citizenship” which is one of the jus soli routes taken by many foreigners, including moneyed Filipinos, to secure US citizenship by having their children born in the US. Ending the practice may require amending the Constitution.

> Remove the attraction to intending immigrants of the opportunities and social security benefits of residing in the US, at the same time making the screening of immigration applicants extremely strict.

• Few Pinoys fear Trump crackdown

TRUMP’S plan to clamp down on aliens (mostly non-whites) who take advantage of US immigration rules and social services does not seem to alarm that many Filipinos. Many of them are generally optimistic that some relief would turn up for them.

More than 3 million of nearly 4 million Filipinos in the US are legally employed, comporting themselves properly and contributing to the common weal by achieving an educational and economic status higher than the US average.

One estimate has it that less than 10 percent of Filipinos in the US could face deportation, mainly because they have run afoul of the law or cannot show documentation.

The number of OFWs in the US comprises only 0.1 percent in 2014. From 2010 to 2014, their number averaged 0.2 percent over five years.

The possible expulsion of a good number of Filipinos has raised concern that that could result in a drop in OFW remittances from the US, which contributes the biggest share at 32.8 percent of the total remittances that help keep the economy afloat.

But one analysis shows that the number of “illegals” who could be deported or lose their jobs contribute only 2.5 percent of the total remittances, representing only 0.2 percent of the Gross Domestic Product.

Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas officials said remittances reported from the US may be overstated, because some money originating from other OFW areas are coursed through and listed under the US.

• BPOs diversify to non-voice field

IN THE FACE of a decline in the number of jobs by around 5 million since 2000, Trump talks of forcing US  firms operating abroad, especially those engaged in manufacturing, to go back to America.

Trump threatens to impose a 15-percent tax on outsourcing as one way of discouraging it and forcing manufacturers back to US soil.

It has been observed in some studies, however, that the decline in the number of domestic jobs was caused mostly by the improvement of technology, not so much by outsourcing.

Trump seems to believe that the displacement of American workers was caused principally by outsourcing and what he perceives to be the onerous terms of some free trade agreements entered into by the US.

He thinks that China, Mexico and other countries offering lower wages are benefiting from these trade acts that hurt US interests.

One school says, however, that taxing or limiting outsourcing may even hurt the competitiveness of US firms. Affected companies could just move to other countries, such as Canada just north of the border, that offer more liberal employment terms.

The National Economic and Development Authority once estimated that a 10-percent drop in demand for call centers could reduce the GDP by 0.8 percent.

Anticipating such a possible problem, the BPO sector has moved towards higher value-added non-voice business processes that are less language-dependent and may be attractive to a wider set of countries, especially those that are not English-speaking.

(First published in the Philippine STAR of November 22, 2016)

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