By Wilma I. Miranda
When Trump won the elections, I was in the United States last November 2016. We went to a restaurant for dinner after the election results came out and we were discussing how in the world Trump won? There were Filipinos though, who voted for Trump and I knew later there were many of them who voted for him including some Filipinos whom I met on the plane back home.
I was just a tourist, but I was trying to listen to the reasons why some Filipinos there voted for him. I asked one lady who was seated beside me “ don’t you know Trump is for protectionism and his policies might have a negative effect on the many Filipinos who are living in the States? Furthermore, he is bent on bringing jobs back home and that means many outsourcing businesses (where majority of the companies are from the United States) might be relocated back to the US.”
Her answer is the same answer I heard from most Filipinos in the US why they voted for Trump. It is more of their religious and personal convictions – they are against same sex marriages, a negative reaction to pro-abortion policies of Obama and they strongly feel that the values of America are going down the drain. The pro-Palestinian stance of the Obama administration is the final straw that led them to the decision to vote for Trump.
The effect of the Trump victory on the economy of the Philippines is the least of their concerns. Even the acid tongue he has and the type of personality he possessed which earned him the ire of many, will not dissuade them from voting for Trump.
Going fast forward this January 2017 when Trump took the position as the leader of his country, I was surprised of some survey that shows that among the ASEAN nations the prospect for the Philippines is going upward rather than down with a Trump administration in the US. While the economies of our ASEAN neighbors are forecasted to go down – Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia – the Philippines seem to stand to gain from Trump’s victory or is it?
The forecast for the Philippines were revised to be up to 6.6%-6.9% through 2018 more because of public and durable equipment investments that “can help boost construction.” My personal thoughts on this is – that although there is an air of uncertainty in the outsourcing industry with the possibility of a pull-out of some companies for the work to be brought back to the United States, this negative impact may have been partially neutralized by a robust and growing economy in our country.
The result of joint survey of the Japan Center for Economic Research and the business publication Nikkei Asian Review showed that except for the Philippines the rest of the ASEAN nations will have a revised downward forecast on their economies.
In a report released last December 30, 2016 in Nikkei Asian Review, it shows a decline in the average growth forecast for Singapore in 2016 down to 1.4% from 1.8% in the previous survey in September. This is because of Singapore’s ultra-open economy. The financial center will likely be one most exposed to the threat of protectionism according to the report.
Malaysia and Thailand forecasts were also revised down because these countries are export oriented. Indonesia although forecasted to go down for 2016 and 2017 it is expected however to speed up growth at more than 5% through 2018.
In the report, it mentioned about India and the Philippines taking less seriously the threat on the rise of protectionism and other risks compared to the four countries mentioned above with a downward forecast. This despite the fact that most of these two countries outsourcing business are from the United States.
My take on this is that outsourcing their work to the Philippines and India will be more beneficial to the United States than to these two countries. Even if their country will give these businesses tax benefits if they bring back their work in the US, they still stand to lose a lot in revenue since the labor arbitrage they gain from outsourcing may not be completely offset by these tax benefits.
But who knows what other strategies will the Trump administration may come up, to bring back these businesses back home? For the meantime the outsourcing industry should beef up their clientele and look elsewhere other than the US to sell their outsourcing services.
Let us hope though that indeed the Philippines will stand to gain more in the Trump administration rather than losing in the long run.
(Wilma Miranda is the Managing Partner of Inventor, Miranda & Associates, CPAs and Treasurer of KPS Outsourcing, Inc. The opinions expressed herein are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of these institutions)