THANK God, the poor and the working-class Filipinos will not suffer much from high prices because of inflation this year. The Bangko Sentral the other week lowered its already low inflation forecast for the year (from 2.4 percent to 2.2 percent).

Consumer prices will likely continue being benign until the end of the year and even beyond.

This is partly because oil prices have gone down so low—endangering the stability of Middle East countries dependent on nothing else but their oil exports. This, naturally, causes worry that millions of OFWs will lose their jobs. So far, however, most Middle East countries hosting our OFWs continue to look safe for our workers. Despite the extremely low international oil prices, these countries are not planning to lay off their foreign workers.

Another cause of high prices is rice shortage. But, again thank God, it seems credible that there is a large reserve of imported and locally harvest rice.

Inflation hurts the poorest members of society the most. The rich, who of course also complain of increases in the prices of commodities, can always afford to buy what they need. The poorest who have very little money have to forgo medicines and basic food items when these become too expensive for them. The working class families whose incomes are from the fixed wages of their employed members can only buy their most basic needs and give up the extras that make their nutrition ordinarily healthy enough.

That is why it is really criminal for governments, like the one that we now have, to fail in making the economic growth they crow so much about lift up the poor sectors of the population.

In the macroeconomic viewpoint the Philippine economy has been going great these past almost six years of the BS Aquino administration—as it has been even during the Macapagal-Arroyo regime, which set the pattern of GDP growth. This continuing growth since the Arroyo years has made our country a “shining star” among other Southeast Asian countries.

But what will happen in 2016 and beyond?

This is the subject of today’s 3rd Manila Times Business Forum—”The Philippine Economic Outlook for 2016.” This begins at 8 a.m. at the New World Manila Bay Hotel (which stands where the former Hyatt Regency Hotel stood, in the corner of Pedro Gil and M.H. del Pilar, Malate, Manila).

The Times Business Forum’s keynote speech will be given by no less than Central Bank Governor Amando Tetangco Jr. He will discuss the challenges for the Philippine economy in 2016.

The other highpowered speakers are Dr. Shanaka Jayanath Peiris, International Monetary Fund’s Resident Representative in the Philippines; Rogier van den Brink, World Bank lead economist, and Marife Zamora, Convergys chairman.

The reactors are Greg Navarro, Deloitte Phils./Navarro, Amper & Co. managing partner and chief executive officer; Marivic Españo, Punongbayan & Araullo chairman and CEO; Ben Kritz, our key Business columnist and World News editor; Alexander Cabrera, PwC Philippines chairman and senior partner; Eduardo Francisco, BDO Capital & Investment Corp. president; and Hans Sicat, Philippine Stock Exchange president and CEO.

“We are honored to have the country’s leading authorities and experts on the subject as speakers in this Forum,” Dante Ang 2nd, our President, CEO, and Executive Editor said.

As published in The Manila Times dated 22 February 2016