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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs        20 January 2011

Philippine dollar surplus tops target

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The country's dollar surplus ended 2010 at least twice higher than the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) forecast for the year on the back of strong remittances and inflows from the central bank's official loans and operations.

Data from the BSP showed that the country's balance of payments (BOP) registered a surplus of $1.225 billion in December from $1.215 billion in the same month in 2009.

The December figure brought the full-year BOP to a cumulative surplus of $14.403 billion, or 124 percent higher than the $6.421-billion surplus in the same 12-month period in 2009.

The year-to-date surplus was more than $6 billion higher than the revised $8.2-billion forecast for 2010.

BSP Governor Amando Tetangco Jr. said this development reflected the global shift of capital flows into emerging markets including the Philippines.

"The BOP surplus turned up higher than earlier projected mainly due to a lower than anticipated merchandise trade deficit, as actual exports grew larger than forecast, and higher-than-projected remittances," he said.

The robust external position for the period was also ascribed to the proceeds of the national government's bond issuance and official development assistance loans.

Current account transactions cover trade in goods, service, income and current transfers, of which a portion of remittances is recorded as a sub-account.

Money sent home by overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and coursed through banks grew by 10.5 percent to $1.6 billion in November, the second highest monthly increment, resulting in a cumulative 11-month stash of $17.1 billion.

However, these flows also generate domestic liquidity, which if left unchecked, would result in a price bubble and the volatility in the exchange rate.

With this, the BSP assured the public that monetary authorities continue to use an "enhanced tool kit" to ensure that money supply remains at a level the economy can absorb.

"A review of our projections for 2011 shows that this upward trend would likely persist, even as the global rebalancing progresses. We continue to be watchful of developments to see if there is any need to refine our foreign exchange regulatory environment further or if any adjustments to other policy levers need to be made," Tetangco said.

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It is commonplace in journalism to write two types of articles at the transition point between the year that has passed and the New Year. As this writer qualifies as an “old hand” in observing Thailand with a track record dating back 14 years, it is time take a shot at what may unfold in Thailand in 2011.

The first issue that can’t be answered is the health of Thailand’s beloved King Bhumibol, who is now 83 years old. He is the world's longest reigning monarch, but elaborate birthday celebrations in December failed to mask concern over his health. More

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