Sunday, January 24, 2021

BWorld 471, The US and world economy these past four years

 * My article in BusinessWorld, January 19, 2021.

On Jan. 20, outgoing US President Donald J. Trump will leave office and new US President Joe R. Biden will be inaugurated. We can review the US economic performance under Mr. Trump in the last four years and compare this with other countries, as well as US performance during the second four-year term of former President Barack H. Obama with Joe Biden as his Vice-President.

First among the indicators is growth of the gross domestic product (GDP). We use the average growth in Obama’s first term, 2009-2012, as the baseline, then his second term 2013-2016, and compare this with the first three years under Trump. We use the world’s top 12 largest economies in GDP size as they set the overall pace of global economic performance.

In 2019, the GDP sizes were as follows: USA, $21.43 trillion; China, $14.73 trillion; Japan, $5.08 trillion; South Korea, $1.65 trillion; the Philippines, $377 billion; and Vietnam, $330 billion. Data comes from the IMF World Economic Outlook (WEO) database.

Also in 2019, the per capita GDP were as follows: USA, $65,254; China, $10,287; Japan $40,256; South Korea, $31,846; the Philippines, $3,512; and Vietnam, $3,416. Because the Philippines had a deep GDP contraction in 2020 while Vietnam grew, Vietnam will overtake the Philippines in per capita GDP with projected $3,500 in 2020 vs the Philippines’ $3,370.

In terms of GDP growth, of the world’s top six largest economies, only the US has better performance in 2017 to 2019 than 2013 to 2016. For the top 12 economies, the US is joined by France, Brazil, Canada and Russia.

In terms of per capita GDP, only the US had a big expansion in 2017-2019 from the 2016 level, the last year of Obama’s presidency, with a $2,412 per year increase. Germany and France also had significant increases during that period, but they came from significant per capita income declines from 2008 to 2016. China and India had modest increases (see Table 1).

Next we check foreign direct investment (FDI) inward stock, which reflects net gains through the years in annual inflows less outflows. Again, the US gained a significant increase in 2017-2019 from the 2016 level, with a $960 billion/year increase. The UK’s Brexit plan (referendum victory in 2016) seems to have attracted more FDIs with $205 billion/year increase. China had a modest increase. Data comes from UNCTAD’s World Investment Report (WIR) database 2020.

In terms of merchandise trade, Trump challenged China in 2018 to lower its tariff for US exports, otherwise the US would raise its tariff for China exports. Many people lambasted this move as “Trump protectionism.” Until 2016, the most favored nation (MFN) mean tariff rates for manufactured goods were as follows: Japan, 2.5%; the USA 3.6%; EU, 4%; China, 9.4% (see So it is clear as China or Xi Jinping protectionism but people did not call it as such, only “Trump protectionism.”

In terms of merchandise exports, the US did not expand much in 2017-2019 from the 2016 level as other countries did not lower their tariff rates while non-tariff barriers (NTBs) continued to remain high if not increasing. US imports continued to remain high at $100+ billion/year increase (see Table 2).

Overall on the economic front — GDP growth, GDP per capita, FDI inflows — Trump delivered on his promise to “Make America Great Again” (MAGA) with a good economic legacy. Gains in US merchandise trade are not reflected for now but China was adversely affected and many US companies have left China and moved to Vietnam, Malaysia, and other ASEAN countries.

The Philippines still has to see a significant increase in FDI inflows. Proposals to amend the Philippine Constitution and remove economic restrictions are good and must be pursued. We also need to cut corporate income taxes via the CREATE law, and significantly expand power supply capacity from cheap and reliable energy sources and dispel fear of future blackouts.

See also:
BWorld 468, Top 10 economic news of 2020, December 30, 2020 
BWorld 469, Top 10 energy stories of 2020, January 12, 2021 
BWorld 470, 10 big changes in the 2021 budget, January 13, 2021.

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Covid 22, Deaths from vax, Studies on lockdowns don't work

Some deaths and additional diseases after taking the Covid vax.

55 dead in the US after taking Moderna and Pfizer vax,

29 dead in Norway after taking Pfizer BionTech vax,

3 facial paralysis in Israel after taking Pfizer vax,

You can't sue vax companies over side effects,

Meanwhile, no longer possible for Filipinos to travel abroad without a vax passport, it will become mandatory,

Last Nov. 19, 2020, I received this compilation from a reader of my column, Greg Gibson. He said he's an American married to a Filipina and been living here for a decade and a half. Good list of materials, thanks Greg. Reposting all below...


1. Lancet Study of 50 Countries: Full Lockdowns Not Associated with Deaths/Million People

A Country Level Analysis Measuring the Impact of Government Actions, Country Preparedness and Socioeconomic Factors on COVID-19 Mortality and Related Health Outcomes

“Data was collected from the top 50 countries ranked by number of cases… Rapid border closures, full lockdowns, and wide-spread testing were not associated with COVID-19 mortality per million people.

However, full lockdowns (RR=2.47: 95%CI: 1.085.64) and reduced country vulnerability to biological threats (i.e. high scores on the global health security scale for risk environment) (RR=1.55; 95%CI: 1.132.12) were significantly associated with increased patient recovery rates.”

2. Study: 80% of Covid-19 Outbreaks From Home, Only 1 Outside

Indoor Transmission of SARS-CoV-2
by Prof. Hua Qian, PhD 

“…Home outbreaks were the dominant category (254 of 318 outbreaks; 79·9%), followed by transport (108; 34·0%...Most home outbreaks involved three to five cases. We identified only a single outbreak in an outdoor environment, which involved two cases…”

3. REVEALED: 66% of New York state coronavirus hospitalizations are people staying at HOME
by Jennifer Smith 

“…In a study of some 1,000 new patients admitted to New York hospitals over the last week, 66 percent were staying at home…Almost all of them - 96 percent - had underlying conditions.”

4. Study: Covid-19 Infections 18.7 Times (1870%) More Contagious in Closed Environments

Closed Environments Facilitate Secondary Transmission of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)
by Prof. Hiroshi Nishiura, M.D., PhD., et al. 

“The odds that a primary case transmitted COVID-19 in a closed environment was 18.7 times greater compared to an open-air environment (95% confidence interval [CI]: 6.0, 57.9). Conclusions: It is plausible that closed environments contribute to secondary transmission of COVID-19 and promote superspreading events…”

5. Study of 124 Countries: No Evidence That Lockdowns Saved Lives

There Is No Evidence Lockdowns Saved Lives. It Is Indisputable They Caused Great Harm
by William M. Briggs, PhD

“…There were 12 countries (with at least a million people) that had, on May 12, reported death rates greater than 100 per million…

There were 31 countries (of at least one million) with reported death rates from 11 to 99 per million…

There were 51 countries (of at least one million) with reported death rates from 1 to 10 per million…

Finally, there were 30 countries (also at least one million) with reported deaths under 1 per million…

What can we conclude. Only one thing: we cannot conclude that lockdowns worked…”

6. Study of 50 States and 4 Countries: No Evidence Lockdowns Work

There Is No Empirical Evidence for These Lockdowns
by Prof. Wilfred Reilly, PhD

“The average number of cases-per-million across the states minus New York was 1,392 and the average number of deaths-per-million was 54. Comparing the social-distancing states plus South Carolina to US states minus New York, the social-distancing states experienced 663 fewer cases per million and 42 fewer deaths per million on average than the lockdown states…

Japan had…73 cases per million citizens, and two deaths per million. South Korea had…207 cases per million and four deaths per million. Taiwan had…17 cases per million and 0.03 deaths per million.”

7. Study of 30 Countries: Lockdowns Have No Impact

Impact of  Non-Pharmaceutical Interventions Against  COVID-19 in Europe
by Prof. Paul R. Hunter, M.D., et al.

“…We found that closure of education facilities, prohibiting mass gatherings and closure of some non-essential businesses were associated with reduced incidence whereas stay at home orders, closure of all non-businesses and requiring the wearing of facemasks or coverings in public was not associated with any independent additional impact…”

Friday, January 15, 2021

Climate 94, Eat worms and bugs to save the planet

This week, the EU has officially cleared and approved worms for human consumption.

"Eat the Bugs: EU Approves Mealworms For Human Consumption to Save the Environment", Jan. 13, 2021,

"EU Gives Go-ahead For Eating WORMS", Jan. 14, 2021,

"some people might eventually be forced to eat bugs against their will, if other sources of protein are priced out of their reach by carbon taxes."

“Let Them Eat Worms”, Jan 14, 2021,

"Would you eat insects to help save the planet? These companies are betting yes", Jan. 2019,

"The food that can feed, and maybe save, the planet: Bugs", Oct 2019,

"Grubs up: Would you eat insects to save the planet?" May 2019,

"Edible insects are on the menu in New York City" (incl scorpions), Apr 2019,

"Would you eat insects to save the planet from global warming?" Oct 2018,

"Entomophagy: How giving up meat and eating bugs can help save the planet", Mar 2018,

"Save the planet; eat an insect", Feb 2018,

High ICOR and build-build-build

Somehow it is common to see in the Philippines of non-ugly roads being destroyed so that new roads will be built. On the same spot. Any new value added to society? Or just count them as part of big budget Build Build Build?

These photos in Yakal St., Makati, today.

Last year, my former teacher at UPSE, Dr. Noel de Dios, wrote that the investment capital-output ratio (ICOR) under Duterte admin is high compared to previous administration.  High ICOR means some or many investments like public infra are inefficient, if not wasteful. 

Waste and means
By Emmanuel S. de Dios   February 9, 2020 | 9:58 pm

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Global warming hits Asia, Part 6

Recent reports of severe cold snap this year.

Jan. 13, 2021: Srinagar, Kashmir, -7.8 C, lowest in 8 years,

Jan. 12, 2021: 
(1) Cambodia cold snap, northern mountain provinces min. 11-13 C,

(2) Japan, Electricity in short supply due to unseasonably cold winter,

Jan. 11, 2021: Vietnam, northern provinces, snow-capped mountains,

Jan. 8, 2021: 
1. Seoul, -18.6 C, lowest since 1986,

2. Beijing, -19.6 C, lowest since 1969,

3. Taiwan, 18 people died in cold wave,

4. Jammu Ten, Pakistan, -10 C,

5. HK, 7.7 C, -2.5 C in Tai Mo Shan,

Jan. 2, 2021: Delhi, 1.1 C, lowest since 2005,

* Madrid, Spain, -34.1 C (Jan. 7), lowest since 1956,

In the Philippines, many cities experienced below 20 C temperatures last Jan. 11. Tuguegarao (capital of Cagayan province) would get 40 C in May or June during bad El Nino years. Now it's below 20 C.


See also:
Global warming hits Asia, part 3, February 15, 2011 
Global warming hits Asia, Part 4, January 26, 2016 
Global warming hits Asia, Part 5, January 11, 2017.
"Man-made" global warming hits the US, January 30, 2019.

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

BWorld 470, 10 big changes in the 2021 budget

 * My column in BusinessWorld, January 12, 2021.

The new budget law or General Appropriations Act (GAA) 2021 was signed by President Rodrigo R. Duterte on Dec. 28, 2020. Due to space constraints, I will not include items and agencies with spending below P20 billion. For comparison I include spending and revenues in the last two years, and also those in 2016, the last budget of the previous Aquino administration.

Data comes from the Budget of Expenditures and Sources of Financing (BESF). Here are some revelations:

1. Big rise in spending… From 2019 to 2020, total expenditures increased by P490 billion, and another P406 billion increase in 2021. In contrast, the average increase in total expenditures in the previous administration, from 2011 to 2016 was only P171 billion per year.

2. …Despite big decline in revenues. With the strict and indefinite lockdown, many businesses have gone bankrupt or suffered heavy losses, so tax and non-tax revenues declined significantly. My estimated revenue decline is -P290 billion in 2020, and P228 billion recovery in 2021.

3. The budget deficit breached P1 trillion a year. For the first time. It is projected to reach P1.25 trillion in 2020 and P1.43 trillion in 2021. The average budget deficit in the previous administration, 2011-2016, was around P200 billion/year. In 2019 it was P472 billion.

4. Interest payment alone is rising to P85 billion/year. A bigger deficit means more borrowings, the public debt stock keeps rising. Interest payments for both public domestic and foreign debt was P361 billion in 2019, and will rise to P531 billion in 2021.

5. Big increases in the budgets of the departments of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), Education (DepEd), Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), and Health (DoH). This is understandable as the government expanded spending for public infrastructure and welfare subsidies as it tries to compensate for economic contraction because of its strict and prolonged lockdown, now 10 months long. Those with budget expansions of about P20 billion from 2019 to 2021 are the Department of Agriculture (DA), Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE), Commission on Higher Education (CHED), and state universities and colleges (SUCs).

6. Big declines in the budgets of the Departments of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) and National Defense (DND). In particular the Armed Forces of the Philippines General Headquarters (AFP-GHQ) budget fell significantly while the Army, Air Force, and Navy resumed their budget increases from 2019 to 2021. The Philippine National Police (PNP) suffered a P38-billion budget decline over the same period.

7. Big items in pension and personnel benefits. There seem to be new items in the 2020 and 2021 budgets that were not present in 2019 and earlier years. While many workers and entrepreneurs in the private sector suffered job and income losses, government personnel and officials enjoy expansion in benefits.

8. Huge COVID-19 vaccine procurement. A huge new spending item of P70 billion was introduced in 2021 for the procurement, storage, and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines. This is among the “Unprogrammed Appropriations” as they were not part of the budget submitted by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to Congress in July 2020.

9. A big jump in the Expenditure/GDP ratio. From 17.7% in 2016 to 18.5% in 2019, this quickly jumped to an estimated 23.3% in 2020 and 23.8% in 2021. This is for national government spending alone and does not include local government spending.

10. Continuing fiscal irresponsibility. Average households and private enterprises have savings and surpluses during their non-crisis years and use such savings or resort to borrowings only in crises like family health emergencies. Not like in government, where every year is a “crisis year” and hence, an over-spending and borrowing year.

The huge vaccine procurement is consistent with the continuing huge COVID-19 hysteria and indefinite lockdown here. The Philippines’ 85 COVID-19 deaths per million population (CDPMP) as of Jan. 11, 2021 is small compared to 1,000+ for the US, the UK, Belgium, France, Italy, Spain, Mexico, Peru, Panama, others. Minus the hysteria, such a huge vaccine procurement is not justified.

The Concerned Doctors and Citizens of the Philippines (CDC PH) has taken a soft support of the government’s vaccine program but it believes there is a more immediate and much cheaper solution to prevent hospitalizations and deaths by the use of preventive prophylaxis and early treatment protocols even for high risk people (the elderly, those with comorbidities).

Government should learn to cut spending and live below its means both in crisis and non-crisis years. It has plenty of assets that it can privatize to raise revenues and not resort to over-borrowings and, later, over-taxing the citizens. Also, it can leave plenty of public infrastructure to private investors via PPP and not compromise taxpayers money, today and tomorrow.

See also:
BWorld 467, Electricity supply-demand and climate, December 26, 2020 
BWorld 468, Top 10 economic news of 2020, December 30, 2020 
BWorld 469, Top 10 energy stories of 2020, January 12, 2021.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Covid 21, P140.5 billion vaccine budget

Yesterday, a friend pointed me at this post by the Department of Finance @DOFPH:
January 11, 2020, 9:05 am    

LOOK: Summary of funding for the Philippines’ Vaccination Deployment Plan

In a recent interview with CNN Philippines, Finance Assistant Secretary and Spokesperson Paola Alvarez said the government’s national vaccination plan aims to vaccinate 100 million Filipinos without exemption. All vaccines to be administered under this program shall be free of charge.

The Philippines’ Vaccination Deployment Plan (PVDP) will be funded by the following sources:

• Department of Health (DOH) Budget - ₱2.5 billion 
• Government financial institutions (GFIs) and Government-owned or controlled corporations (GOCCs) - ₱20 billion
• Low-cost and long-term loans - ₱48 billion
• Unprogrammed appropriations - ₱70 billion 

The loans come with very low interest and are payable for over a prolonged period of time. Policies from these banks will also guarantee that each Peso lent is allocated solely to the PDVP.

Watch the full interview here:


So P140.5 B total, P120.5B to be borrowed as government does not have enough resources, projected deficit 2021 is about P1.2 trillion. Covid hysteria with vaccine pushing agenda is very successful.

And take note of this: “vaccinate 100 million Filipinos without exemption.” 

Meaning, mandatory vaccination? PH population this 2021 projected at 110 M, so 10 M cannot be vaccinated (exclude newly-born, very frail people, with lots of allergies, etc). So 100% mandatory vaccination of the 100 M?

Compare also that P140.5B vax budget with these 8 Departments’ approved budget in 2021 GAA, in P Billion: 

DENR 23.6, DOJ 23.1, DFA 22.4, DTI 21.4,
DOF 16.0, NEDA 11.2, DOT 3.1, DBM 1.8.
Plus OVP 0.9, UP system (including PGH) 21.5 = P145B.

If push turns to shove and kicks, many of these agencies can be defunded just to fund huge vax pushing agenda.

The unofficial campaign season for May 2022 Presidential, Senatorial, local elections starts this year. If one has a skeptical mind, assume that at least 10% of the P140.5 B vax budget alone would be diverted by those in political power now, that's P14B clear. If one is more pessimistic, assume 20%, 30% diversion, big happiness for the political class. Plus vaccine suppliers from China to Russia to America will be happy. Also the in-betweens like the endless vax pushers among local physicians, health NGOs, media, etc. People too because they will get "free" vax. But unfree potential side effects, unfree future taxes.

I am suspicious of people, physicians included, who (1) push indefinite lockdown, (2) shoot down proven cheap early treatment, and (3) gung-ho about vaccine pushing.

If cheap, proven, early treatments don't exist, I would understand vaccine pushing. But they do, I personally know doctors here in MMla who treat their patients with HCQ, Dr Homer Lim has treated at least 500 patients with hydroxychloroquiene (HCQ) and they all got well, no need for vaccine so far.

See this paper from Dr. Harvey Risch, professor of epidemiology at Yale School of Public Health,

So from my understanding about HCQ:

(a) It is mainly a preventive prophylaxis, and if person is infected, it is for early treatment, not late treatment when the patient is already dying.
(b) Use low dosage of 400 mg/week, not 800 or 1,600 then report that the patient suffered side effects. (c) It is cheap, generic and off-patent, about 60+ years been used worldwide.

But suddenly HCQ is demonized because Trump mentioned it, and because implicitly it will remove the hysteria for vaccine pushing. Again, dengue and HIV, both killer infectious diseases for many decades now, have no clear safe effective vax. and Covid vax with just one year of research are suddenly safe and effective? Vax pushing narrative. Similarity with shabu and drug pushing.

In shabu and drug pushing, you make the victims addicted to the illegal substances.

In Covid vax pushing, you make the victims addicted to the hysteria, to endless pandemic scare and that no cheap early treatment exist.

Meanwhile NEDA Sec Chua already impatient with endless, indefinite lockdown. And DOH, Salvana, Leachon, etc all gung-ho at indefinite lockdown until vax are here.

On herd immunity. It's like gravity, you demonize it or not, it will happen. Virus mutate, humans too. Virulent viruses are the first to go extinct because they kill their human hosts, they can no longer replicate. So it's the mild strains of viruses that multiply because their hosts survive, they can replicate. Remember Spanish flu 1918-1919, among the worst health conditions perhaps: (1) Europe just came from WW1 in 1914-1917, damaged and dilapidated buildings, hospitals, electricity, water, squalor in many places. (2) no modern medicines, no prophylaxis, no modern tests, no vaccines. And yet the pandemic stopped, human population expanded big time after.

Meanwhile, Covid lockdown original proponent "to avoid hundreds millions deaths", the ground zero of virus alarmism, Dr. Neal Ferguson of Imperial College London now believes herd immunity may have been attained in London?

See also:
Covid 18, Lockdowns don't work, articles from scientists and medical professionals, August 10, 2020 
Covid 19, HCQ, RDV and other politicized treatments, October 17, 2020
Covid 20, CDC PH livestream #2, PNP to arrest partying people, December 17, 2020.

BWorld 469, Top 10 energy stories of 2020

* My article in BusinessWorld, January 5, 2021.

Here is my modest list of the top five international and top five national energy stories last year.

1. Global lockdowns and drastic cut in oil demand and prices. From the all-time high of $165/barrel in June 2008, oil prices slumped to -$38/barrel on April 21, 2020. Travel restrictions cut oil demand and storage was filled. Many who had contracted their oil supply could not find enough storage for their excess production, so some producers were temporarily pricing negative — they would pay, not charge, people to get their oil.

2. Natural gas prices also were at all time low, coal prices were not. From an all-time high natural gas price of $14/million British thermal units (BTU) in September 2005, the COVID-19  lockdowns and the cut in electricity demand led to natural gas prices shrinking to only $1.4/million BTU on June 25, 2020. Coal prices also declined but did not break the all-time low of $48/ton in January 2016.

3. “Decarbonization” and coal cuts in the West offset by high coal demand in Asia. In June 2020, the BP Statistical Review of World Energy (SRWE) was released and it compared data from 2000 to 2019. The increase in coal consumption in exajoules (1 EJ = 277.8 terawatt hours, TWH) of China and India combined was almost six times the decline in US coal use. The increase in use of coal in Vietnam and Indonesia combined was 2.4 times higher than the coal cut in France, Denmark, Germany, and Italy combined.

4. Countries which have the highest solar and wind generation also have the highest electricity prices in the world. From the Strom Report 2020: comparing electricity prices (in Euro cents/kwh) one saw that Germany’s cost 30.88 Euro cents/kwh and Denmark’s was 29.84 Euro cents/kwh, versus only 9.97 Euro cents/kwh in Bulgaria (which had the lowest wind+solar generation) and 17.65 Euro cents/kwh in France (which derives about 75% of its power from nuclear power plants).

5. Countries that grew fast also have fast growth in electricity generation and high coal, fossil fuel consumption. I got the top 40 countries with the biggest GDP size in 2019, and I computed their average GDP growth from 2000 to 2019. Nigeria is No. 4 but it has no data on electricity generation so I replaced it with No. 6 Indonesia to have consistent country comparisons. Countries that had slow growth in electricity generation and lessened their coal use have low, anemic growth (see Table 1).

6. Philippines coal power generation rose to 55% of total. In May 2020, the Department of Energy (DoE) released Power Statistics 2019. In terms of installed capacity, coal and gas comprised 57.5% of the total, but when it came to electricity generation, they comprised 75.7% of the total. Geothermal and hydro are the most useful renewables, contributing 17.7% of total power generation.

7. Solar, wind, and biomass remain nearly insignificant contributors to power generation. Despite so many fiscal and non-fiscal incentives given to them, including assured price and profit for 20 years via feed in tariff (FIT) under the RE law of 2008 (RA 9513), the three renewables contributed only 3.2% of total power generation. It is expensive and pampered power yet it is nearly insignificant.

8. DoE moratorium on greenfield coal-fired power plants. On Oct. 27, 2020, Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi declared a moratorium on greenfield coal-fired power plants. One result of this will be the drastic reduction in additional coal power from 2031 to 2040 to only 1,500 MW under the Clean Energy Scenario (CES) vs 12,570 MW under the Reference (REF) scenario. Large-scale favoritism will be given to solar power generation with an additional 23,580 MW from 2020 to 2040, and also more LNG power from 2031 to 2040 (see Table 2).

9. Natgas shrewdly sneaks in as a “renewable” in GEOP. The Green Energy Option Program (GEOP) under RA 9513 encourages energy consumers to choose the renewable (RE) they want. But under DoE Department Circular (DC) 2020-04-0009, Operating Permits for RE Suppliers under GEOP, there is a two years transitory provision that allows the use of indigenous power sources even if they are not renewable — meaning gas from Malampaya, Palawan and, somehow, coal from Semirara, Antique. A sneaky and shrewd scheme.

10. Rising competition under RCOA, more choices for consumers. The retail competition and open access (RCOA) provision under the EPIRA law is indeed beautiful. From 2018 to September 2020 in the Luzon-Visayas grids alone, the number of generation companies (gencos) rose from 114 to 135; Retail Electricity Suppliers (RES) from 30 to 33; and contestable customers from 1,178 to 1,452.