The Philippines may not be a very competitive place, but boy is it friendly. In the Heritage Foundation’s 2012 Index of Economic Freedom, the Philippines improved its standing slightly, ranking 107 out of 179 countries. That rank puts the Philippines solidly in the category of “mostly unfree,” five places behind Cambodia and eight rungs ahead of Indonesia. Vietnam, the current darling of investment analysts, sits at 136.
There is cause for cheers, however. The Philippines is the eighth friendliest country in the world for expatriates, according to a quality of expatriate lifestyle survey conducted last year by HSBC. The survey covered just 31 countries, and another mostly democratic Asian country—Thailand—came out on top. It was followed by less democratic but quite friendly Saudi Arabia, Singapore, and Egypt.
The Philippines became the only Southeast Asian country last week to primarily crowdsource a nation branding campaign. The long-awaited campaign is intended to increase visibility internationally for the Philippines as an attractive tourist destination, and boost tourist arrivals. The “It’s More Fun in the Philippines” tagline is meant to communicate “what the Philippines (truly) is” according to Tourism secretary Ramon R. Jimenez, Jr.
The Philippines may also be “Amazing (Thailand), Truly Asia (Malaysia),” and “Yours” (Your Singapore, a typically stressed slogan.). But it is primarily fun compared to its neighbors competing for the hearts and minds of tourists in search for exotic Asian vacations. “The truth is,” Mr. Jimenez said when the campaign became public, “that the Philippines is more than a bunch of islands and old churches.
If forecasts are accurate, the Philippines was the poorest performing developing economy in Asia last year. Despite encouraging signs of an economic turnaround in some western markets in 2012, the expected slow pace of that turnaround, continued economic malaise in Europe, and a broken Japanese economy suggest that the Philippines and Asia are in for another tough year. There will be less demand for exports, and tourists won’t be able to afford to travel long distances.
According to the Chinese calendar, the Year of the Water Dragon begins January 23. Astrologically speaking, it’s supposed to be a mixed bag, with problems arising but their solutions leading to positive reform. While I’m not suggesting that we look to Chinese astrology for insights into our economic fortunes in 2012, it’s not much of a stretch to suggest that they are likely to be a mixed bag.
We just left behind a year much–perhaps more accurately, most–of the world would prefer to forget. It was characterized by financial turmoil; war and the threat of nuclear holocaust; repression of basic human rights in what is supposed to be an enlightened, modern age; and a series of natural disasters that left tens of thousands dead, hundreds of thousands more homeless and stripped of their livelihoods, and local economies crippled.
And don’t forget corruption, and its pursuit. Former French president Jacques Chirac was found guilty in France. Galleon hedge fund founder Raj Rajaranthnarn was convicted for insider training and republican US presidential candidate Newt Gingrich stands accused of lobbying on behalf of mismanaged government financial institutions that contributed to the meltdown of not just the US economy, but the world’s.