Because it was released in the run-up to Monday’s Chinese Lunar New Year, the HSBC report, “The World in 2050,” has been met with incredulity, with critics attributing it to the geomancy typical of the season. But the report merely confirms, albeit in bolder terms, the rise of the Pacific Century, which has been heralded close to a generation ago. Most of the forecast largest economies and “star performers,” like the Philippines, Peru and Mexico, are in the Pacific Rim.
When he was president (1992-1998), Fidel V. Ramos made “Philippines 2000”—that is, the rise of the country as a dragon economy—his centerpiece. He could at least now take comfort in the fact that his vision has been more or less reaffirmed by the HSBC during, propitiously enough, the Year of the Dragon.
But even if the bank says that Philippine growth would be the most dramatic since it would leapfrog by 27 notches from its current status, Filipinos want more. Why wait for 38 years before the Philippines?
The answer is that all of the nation’s struggles are part of its learning curve. What the Philippines should do is to embrace the present with all its challenges. To be sure, the report does not consider how the communist and Muslim conflicts, both incidentally some 40 years old now, may dampen Philippine growth.
Still, the Philippines holds the biggest promise, according to HSBC, because of its robust population growth. In a rare moment of technocratic candor, HSBC virtually declares that high population is an economic plus, rather than a minus. “The losers are the small populations and aging economies of Europe,” the report says. Emerging economies of Eastern Europe would do well in the next decade “before demographics prove to be a drag.” Japan, predicted to slide down further behind China and India, would see its working population shrink by 37 percent because of demographic winter. Russia may have the world’s largest territory and is set to become the 15th biggest economy in 2050. But it would be just a step ahead of pygmy Philippines and its declining population would shrink its GDP by 31 percent.
The task now is to invest in human resources...