The Year of the Fire Red Monkey: So what next?

I AM in Japan now and it’s the tail end of a relatively normal winter. Just like any curious business coach flying in another Asian country, it is customary for me to become inquisitive, so I asked colleagues in the tourism sector how Filipino visitors fared in comparison with other Asian neighbors.

Clearly, service providers have listed Chinese visitors as tops in the list, but they are thankful that the number of Pinoy tourists has started to gain traction since the Japanese Government relaxed its visa entry restrictions.

It seems ironic that the sole bright spot in Japan’s economy is inbound tourism, boosted by sharp increases in Chinese visitors on shopping sprees. The number of visitors to Japan in the first 11 months of 2015 rose 47 percent over the same period of the previous year, and the annual total is estimated to have topped a record 19 million.

The figure is certain to exceed 20 million for the first time this year (as opposed to our five million tourists annually) and is expected to generate up to five trillion yen in fresh demand and have major ripple effects across the country.

However, when I shifted my line of questioning to the future of the Japanese economy, they appeared to be unhappy and countered that the Philippine economy fared better. They are correct.

The Japanese economy

According to a Japan Times article, the economic landscape remains a mixed picture. Japan narrowly escaped a second recession under the current Abe administration when the revised July-September gross domestic product (GDP) data marked annualized one percent growth from the previous quarter.

But the pickup in consumer spending and capital investments by businesses remains sluggish, and just like the Philippine economy, exports are dampened by decelerating growth in other economies, led by China.

It went on to cite the stock market turbulence in the year’s first week of trading as a precursor to the prospects of the economy. After three years under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s trademark policies, they can still feel the uncertainties. Positive pronouncements of growth do not seem to trickle to a majority of the Japanese economy.

Japan Times went on to highlight that “government forecasts that GDP growth in the fiscal year beginning in April will reach 1.7 percent in real terms—up sharply from around one percent estimated for fiscal year 2015 and more optimistic than what many private-sector economists predict. The Abe administration should be on guard against the various downside risks to the economy and be ready to take appropriate steps.”

The slowdown in China’s economic growth is another factor that has affected most Asian investment appetites, the Philippines included.

What about the Philippines’ economic prospects?

According to a report presented by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), “private consumption and investment are expected to maintain solid growth in 2016. Inflation forecasts are revised down in light of unexpectedly low inflation so far this year, averaging 1.7 percent in the first eight months, and the assumption that global oil prices will increase only slightly in 2016 and that global food prices will be stable. The trade deficit widened but growth in remittances and services exports, mainly from business process outsourcing and tourism, kept the current account in surplus.”

In the Philippine Statistics Authority’s Monthly Integrated Survey of Selected Industries (MISSI), the manufacturing sector’s Volume of Production Index (VoPI) slightly grew by 1.4 percent in April 2015.

The chemicals and tobacco industry sustained their strength for the period, countering the slowdown in the production of food and petroleum products. Also, leather, printing, basic metals and machinery (except electrical) registered double-digit growth.

However, former Economic Planning Secretary and NEDA Director-General Arsenio M. Balisacan said that despite the positive outlook, the adverse effects of El Niño and uncertainties in the global market still pose a significant threat to the Philippine economy.

So there, a comparative picture between the Japanese and Philippine economies. It appears that our country is more progressive. How long we can sustain the momentum is such a difficult task for economists, especially with El Niño and the national elections happening this year.

There is no substitute for innovation, differentiation and hard work.

The key is very fundamental, Feng Shui or not, nobody likes change, but it is a reality. The key is to future-proof your business and prepare a game plan that integrates any leadership change.

After going through the three-part series and reading the assessments of business officials/consultants and comparing them with those of Feng Shui experts, I see continued change. Ben Franklin once stated: “When you are finished changing, you are finished!” This applies perfectly to the big industries or any family business for that matter. Success and failure are not solely reliant on company size, equipment or ownership structure.

How we take advantage of opportunities as well as avoid problematic issues are what will make us relevant and successful.

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