Boom spreads wealth wider in the Philippines
MANILA, Philippines (AP) - Just three years ago, a new car and an overseas holiday were unthinkable luxuries for Ms J. Ante and her family of six. The insurance company manager's commissions have soared since then as the Philippines, blighted for a generation by venal and incompetent leaders, has unexpectedly boomed, putting middle-class comforts within tantalising reach of many.
The US$250 billion (S$316.5 billion) economy surged by 7.8 per cent in the first quarter of this year, outpacing China, and a middle class stunted by widespread poverty, political strife and corruption is beginning to share in a prosperity captured for decades by a clannish business and political elite.
The growing affluence and a burgeoning population have lured many global brands. Students and office workers flock to gleaming outlets opened by Zara, Gap, Forever 21, Starbucks and Uniqlo. New apartment blocks are springing up on almost every corner of metropolitan Manila and other cities, often clustered around malls and office buildings housing outsourcing businesses such as call centres, which are forecast to earn around US$25 billion by 2016.
Luxury car-maker Rolls Royce said it was flooded with enquiries since it opened its first dealership in Manila two weeks ago. The first car selling for US$605,000 went to a popular TV show host, according to newspaper reports.