Overpopulated Philippines: reduced to panhandling for foreign investment

Everytime I hear this and that initiative to “attract” foreign investment to the country and then see these touted as “solutions” aimed at uplifting Filipinos from the clutches of poverty and the setting of our economy on a “firm” path to prosperity, I find my eyes rolling up to the high heavens as if to ask: Why? Why do the hopes and aspirations of the Filipino rest on the Foreign Investment White Knight that we always look forward to seeing galloping in from the horizon?

The issue of why Filipinos remain trapped in Bangladeshi-levels of impoverishment in a region of East Asian high achievement needs to be re-framed. Seeing that we are in the midst of a media, social media, political, and religious circus surrounding the issue of reproductive health, I thought I’d use the core of contention of this chatter — population control — as the context for my argument on why foreign investment is not the fundamental cure for Filipino-style poverty.

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Time and again, I have asserted my seminal definition of poverty:

Poverty is the outcome of a habitual entering into commitments that one is inherently incapable of honouring

Jumping off from the above, let us then start with this simple question:

Is the Filipino inherently capable of employing himself?

This refers to our ability as a people to create and grow capital indigenously. In a previous article where I explored the concept of wealth, I highlighted how capital wealth is something that ultimately originates from a people’s inherent creativity and inventiveness.

Wealth, in primitive times would have been attributed to simple things like a reduced chance of being eaten by a predator, an improved ability to survive a fight with another tribesman, and increased hunting performance among others. Over millennia, as the amount of humanity’s collective wealth increased this way the nature of wealth changed. The nature of wealth changed from merely surviving, to becoming more comfortable, healthier, smarter, more organised, and longer-lived. In modern times, the nature of wealth in advanced societies is now shifting from a form determined by control over physical resources to a form determined by control over information.

Are Filipinos known for being creative, innovative, and inventive?

History has so far shown that Filipinos utterly lack any aptitude for creating and building capital by inventing new technology, adopting foreign technology productively, harnessing natural resources sustainably, or applying new innovative ways to improve productivity and production capacity. The economic equation is simple: If we do not create the means to produce, we cannot produce. And if we cannot produce, we cannot feed nor employ. Simple.

This brings us to the next question:

If we are inherently incapable of creating the means to produce and therefore inherently incapable of producing enough, why do we keep multiplying?

Back in the Stone Age, there were natural means to keep humans (or any living organism for that matter) from overcommitting themselves to unsustainable numbers. People simply starved to death if there wasn’t enough food, or got killed when they weren’t clever enough to fend off predators. Human tribes couldn’t go around begging for “foreign investment” from wealthier tribes when their folk let slip one baby too many. Their numbers simply dropped to even the score with what their inherent production prowesses and Mother Nature’as bounty could deliver.

Back then, population management was a lot more brutal or cruel. If unwanted kiddos did not succumb to infanticide (desperate parents do desperate things, is what I heard), they succumbed to disease or malnutrition or were eaten by the neighbourhood sabre-toothed cat.

On the other hand, today, pre-meditated population management is within the reach of human technology. Humans no longer need to die violently in Mother Nature’s hands in order to balance the population budget. So doesn’t it make perfect sense to apply these technologies to the noble and responsible cause of managing our numbers? You’d think so. Unfortunately, some people beg to differ.

So here’s the thing…

Having shown that we lack the smarts to create the capital that we need to produce the goods that are essential to sustaining Filipino life, we can now approach with a fresh perspective this curious habit of ours of looking to foreign-originated capital for economic salvation.

I’m reminded of the Parable of the Prodigal Son. I’m sure in between tapping on their mobile phones during the church services they dress in their Sunday best to attend, most Filipinos will have probably caught an earful of this story by now. The Prodigal Son is basically the story of the Filipino — but without the happy Hollywood ending. Whereas the biblical version of the story sees the Prodigal Son’s daddy killing the fattened calf to welcome him back, the Filipino, unfortunately, sees no such ending in sight.

The astounding poverty we see today in the Philippines is evidence of how our commitments to feed our lot vastly exceeded our inherent abilities to produce said feed. So now we go around convincing ourselves of our entitlement to capital created elsewhere and continue to multiply like cockroaches despite a lack of any means to assure ourselves that every new Filipino baby born may one day go on to create wondrous sources of employment for his country.

Advanced societies produce people who go on to generate a surplus of economic output.

What we have instead is the Philippines — a massive factory churning out warm bodies whose aspirations cannot seem to go beyond a means of living built on the back of all things foreign.

Every Filipino born presents a liability at birth and is most likely to go on and produce a deficit economic output.

Are Filipinos a “blessed” people? Last I heard, “blessings” are supposed to be more of a bonus earned after basic commitments are met. The thing with Filipinos is that we rely on blessings and bonuses to enable us to meet these basic commitments. And this is why we are, today, a people reduced to a laughable expertise — panhandling for foreign investment.

33 Replies to “Overpopulated Philippines: reduced to panhandling for foreign investment”

  1. It is important to note that Bangladesh also has a parliamentary form of government and fewer restrictions on investment than we do.

    Ideally, that’s already potential for an Asian powerhouse economy.

    1. Frank,

      Bangladesh also gets hit by too many cyclones and gets flooded too often because of its mostly swamp-like terrain.

      They also have 164.4 million people, so they do have their own enormous population-management issues.

      The “ceteris paribus” question is… How would Bangladesh fare had it had a closed and protectionist set of economic provisions and an unstable Philippine-style Presidential System?

      You bet… MUCH WORSE than they are now.

      * * * *

      Just the same, Bangladesh is actually rapidly developing and some great strides have been made.


      It turns out that it was because of protectionist and SOCIALIST anti-foreign investor policies in the beginning that turned Bangladesh into the economic laggard it was for a long time. Read on:

      “Since Bangladesh followed a socialist economy by nationalising all industries after its independence, a slow growth of experienced entrepreneurs, managers, administrators, engineers, or technicians underwent.[5] There were critical shortages of essential food grains and other staples because of wartime disruptions.[5] External markets for jute had been lost because of the instability of supply and the increasing popularity of synthetic substitutes.[5] Foreign exchange resources were minuscule, and the banking and monetary system was unreliable.[5] Although Bangladesh had a large work force, the vast reserves of under trained and underpaid workers were largely illiterate, unskilled, and underemployed.[5] Commercially exploitable industrial resources, except for natural gas, were lacking.[5] Inflation, especially for essential consumer goods, ran between 300 and 400 percent.[5] The war of independence had crippled the transportation system.[5] Hundreds of road and railroad bridges had been destroyed or damaged, and rolling stock was inadequate and in poor repair.[5] The new country was still recovering from a severe cyclone that hit the area in 1970 and cause 250,000 deaths.[5] India, by a heavily poor nation and without any ability of giving aid to other nations, let alone to its suffering masses, came forward immediately with critically measured economic assistance in the first months after Bangladesh achieved independence from Pakistan.[5] Between December 1971 and January 1972, India committed US$232 million in aid to Bangladesh from the politco-economic aid India received from the USA and USSR. Official amount of disbursement yet undisclosed.[5]

      After 1975, Bangladeshi leaders began to turn their attention to developing new industrial capacity and rehabilitating its economy.[3] The static economic model adopted by these early leaders, however—including the nationalization of much of the industrial sector—resulted in inefficiency and economic stagnation.[3]

      Beginning in late 1975, the government gradually gave greater scope to private sector participation in the economy, a pattern that has continued.[3] Many state-owned enterprises have been privatized, with banking, telecommunication, aviation, media, jute including a range of other vital sectors have been privatised.[3] Inefficiency in the public sector have been improving however at a gradual pace, external resistance to developing the country’s richest natural resources, and power sectors including infrastructure have all contributed to slowing economic growth.[3]

      In the mid-1980s, there were encouraging signs of progress.[3] Economic policies aimed at encouraging private enterprise and investment, privatizing public industries, reinstating budgetary discipline, and liberalizing the import regime were accelerated.[3] From 1991 to 1993, the government successfully followed an enhanced structural adjustment facility (ESAF) with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) but failed to follow through on reforms in large part because of preoccupation with the government’s domestic political troubles.[3] In the late 1990s the government’s economic policies became more entrenched, and some of the early gains were lost, which was highlighted by a precipitous drop in foreign direct investment in 2000 and 2001.[3] In June 2003 the IMF approved 3-year, $490-million plan as part of the Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility (PRGF) for Bangladesh that aimed to support the government’s economic reform program up to 2006.[3] Seventy million dollars was made available immediately.[3] In the same vein the World Bank approved $536 million in interest-free loans.[3]

      Bangladesh historically has run a large trade deficit, financed largely through aid receipts and remittances from workers overseas.[3] Foreign reserves dropped markedly in 2001 but stabilized in the USD3 to USD4 billion range (or about 3 months’ import cover).[3] In January 2007, reserves stood at $3.74 billion, and then increased to $5.8 billion by January 2008, in November 2009 it surpassed $10.0 billion, and as of April 2011 it surpassed the US $12 billion according to the Bank of Bangladesh, the central bank.[3] In addition imports and aid-dependence of the country has systematically been reduced since the beginning of 1990s.”

      1. That question might not be “ceteris paribus” as much as straw man as it implies that I was defending the failed Philippine-style presidential system. I find such an implication insulting.

        But I digress.

        It is important to note that if their parliamentary government could actually close the economy, then the possibility cannot be ruled out in the Philippines especially since parliaments are more efficient at producing legislation. And I do quote from the same:

        “From 1991 to 1993, the government successfully followed an enhanced structural adjustment facility (ESAF) with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) but failed to follow through on reforms in large part because of preoccupation with the government’s domestic political troubles.[3] In the late 1990s the government’s economic policies became more entrenched, and some of the early gains were lost, which was highlighted by a precipitous drop in foreign direct investment in 2000 and 2001.[3]”

        Old habits will be hard to break, especially the habit of spinning bad things to sound good to comfort the average voter.

        There needs to be something like a full-fledged Transparency Act above our current FOIA to keep that sort of thing from happening.

      2. Frank,

        Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think you were defending the failed Philippine-style Presiential System. I know that you’ve actually realized that a Parliamentary System would in fact be way better than the rotten and failed system we currently have. I just thought I’d emphasize that with all of the problems of Bangladesh concurrently hitting it, it’s pretty clear that if it actually used a Pinoy-style dysfunctional presidential system, they’d be further weighed down by an even worse system.

        Anyway, with the case of a parliamentary system making hare-brained decisions, the point is that if a ruling party decides to do something idiotic, IT CAN.

        Then of course, the opposition will seize upon the opportunity to point out that the decision was indeed idiotic, and harp on it every question time, especially if and when it blows up and the decision results in major failure.

        From there, the opposition can rally support from the people and in the next election, take over from the ruling party that was idiotic enough to do something that was clearly not going to work.

        The main difference is that in a Parliamentary System, AS OPPOSED to a Presidential System, there is only one body that is responsible: The Ruling Party.

        In a US-style Presidential System, you’ve got two entities able to point fingers at each other. The Executive branch – or the Office of the President – can say “we did our job but the Legislature screwed it up”, or the Legislature can say “we did our job but the Office of the President spoiled it.”

        In a Parliamentary System, there is only a Ruling Party or Ruling Coalition and no one else can be blamed.

        The opposition, very likely, can point only at one group – the ruling bloc – and blame them for the failures, and the entire voting public will agree that indeed, it was the ruling party that screwed up.

        No separation of powers, but all fingers point at the ruling party – making it far easier to assign RESPONSIBILITY for who is to blame.

        * * * *

        I totally agree with the need for an FOIA and that’s the reason why aside from the need for a Population Management program (like the RH or the RP-RH-PD Bill), I also say that we need the FOIA Bill to get passed into law.

        Check this out:


    1. Well, yes indeed…

      Dysfunctional Pinoy Culture is the reason why so many Filipinos are RESISTING any possible practical solutions that are being proposed by the more sensible members of Philippine Society.

      That is to say that if there are certain things that are BROKEN about the Philippine situation, those clearly need to be fixed.

      It is dysfunctional PINOY CULTURE that actually prevents these broken aspects from being fixed. It is this dysfunctional Pinoy Culture that makes discussions on what policy to adopt in order to fix the problems become more defined by ideology and sentiment (“nationalism”) than by common sense and practicality.

      Population Management, for instance: that simple solution is having a hard time getting adopted because Pinoy culture has an inherent dogmatism that makes it resistant to considering practical approaches.

      Economic Development Strategies: The use of Foreign Investments, for instance, is a jump-starting strategy that many countries like Singapore, Malaysia, China, India, Kazakhstan, Vietnam, and several Gulf States used in order to leap frog the “play-it-by-ear” process that often happens to countries that adopt a “national industries” model.

      Attracting foreign investment is not and never was touted to be an END-IN-ITSELF, but is nothing but a simple means to an end. A quick and easy means to generate employment and a shortcut to developing the workforce’s skillsets in fields they otherwise would not have picked up had they not been employed in such foreign-owned enterprises.

      But alas, Pinoy Culture is indeed the culprit.

      Instead of learning from other countries who have previously done it and succeeded, many Filipinos with a dysfunctional set of cultural inclinations go against such economic development strategies, shouting that it’s unnationalistic or unpatriotic to have foreign investors come in.

      So what do we end up with?

      Jobless Filipinos forced to go overseas as OFW’s, drugmules, or work in the flesh trade.

      The lucky ones are able to migrate to greener pastures like the USA, Canada, NZ, or Australia…

      And that is why FILIPINO CULTURE is very much the culprit.

      Filipino Culture’s fixation on status-quo and backwardness makes it almost impossible for corrective strategies to be undertaken which could have fixed things or at least prevented problems (like overpopulation) from having occurred in the first place.

    2. I don’t know Benigno that’s what we see, but what about what we don’t see? Tama ka “culture” pero ang hindi problema yung nakikita natin, that’s only small. Ang big problem yung hindi natin nakikita. Yun ang tinututukan ng mga corrupt people.

      For example, noong Erap administration he stole the entire SSS, Pag-Ibig funds and forcefully let a rich tycoon to sell his stocks so Erap could run again for election. I read in one of the reports of the IMF’s, I’m sorry if I’m wrong noh I’m not very bright in remembering what I read, that he just called the SSS head and, without papers, asked for the money.

      Another is I recently read a report by a UP guy, I don’t know if he is a professor, but he said that government people can actually “not record” the collected funds on the people. It makes sense because I’ve seen this before done by the accountants, which begs to differ why politicians gets richer with the shown records on the newspapers na “wala” namang problema where in truth meron.

      Third is the immigration. We suck at security here. The newspaper dubbed this country as a “safe haven for criminals”. Criminals from all over the country come here and pose as a “tourist” then creates illegal establishments like prostitution rings and gets the money of the people that was suppose to be given to the government as taxes.

      This poses a lot of problems at employment and businesses. Employment kasi kinukuha ng mga crimelords ang mga tao na magtrabaho sa kanila. Business kasi imbes sa kanila magtrabaho, kinukuha ng criminals ang mga workers na needed nila and at the same time crimelords use coercion to scare potential businessmen on a certain location.

      Population din is a threat because crimelords use this as a way to create prostitution rings, human trafficking and drug mules. And nakakagulat, I met a lady who is a “baby maker”. Do you know that? A “baby maker”? Well, ang mga babaeng ganun pala magpapagamit sa isang lalaki tapos pagnanganak, ibebenta sa mga gustong ng anak aroung 80,000 or 100,000 each. It’s sick noh but it’s one of the modus operandi of the crimelords. Kaya nga ang ganda ng RH Bill.

      But looking to the RH bill, I’m a pro RH Bill by the way, pero I have to look at the side of the priest din. Beyond their rants about contraception and condoms thing, they make rather a good point kung bakit hindi ipasa yung RH Bill.

      Here’s the point: Last week, if you happen to read the newspaper, Senator Trillianes is questioning the 5 billion yearly funds allocated to the RH Bill if ever it was implemented.


      I mean, I’m skeptical to look at this dude. It makes sense that the “RH Bill” theme is only a way for the government guys to give the people, that’s us, a reason to take money.

      Alam naman natin they suck at everything when it comes to leadership so why would we trust them with this RH Bill too? They failed before, what makes this any different?

      The thing is I’m starting to think that the media, as stated by Ilda, is being used inappropriately by the government. Adding to what she says, in a deeper sense, and this is only my prediction so it’s ok not to believe it, parang ginagamit lang ang “population” as a front line propaganda so they could get more rich.

      Titingnan nga natin most of our funds are allocated to education eh bakit ganun, ang daming students na engot sa mga subjects? Puro sex at FHM and alam? Hindi ba pwede din natin sabihin na kung ano ginawa nila sa funds ng education eh pwede din magawa sa RH Bill? Kaunting “magic” lang sa mga accountants ng government natin then “poof!” the rich gets richer and poor gets poorer.

  2. Right, culture. Strike one is a penchant for taking care of self, not the community. I’m not sure from whence this striking trait derived; perhaps from being the subjects of too many feudal chiefs or colonial autocrats. Strike two is an inability to look forward and be proactive, rather than to go with the flow and be reactive. Again, I suppose too many people have been subjects, that is subjugated, for two long to believe they can create anything for themselves. Strike three is a blindness or a “I don’t care” attitude toward these failings, a willingness to subsist rather than carve out a productive future. I suppose that derives in part from ignorance, and in part from the cultural pressures that view introspection (like psycho therapy) as a loss of face, or reading a book warranting slurs like “librarian”.

    At any rate, Casey Jose is no longer at the plate and Mudville (Viet Nam, Indonesia, Thailand et al)are walking all over this Ego-Bound, Pride-Bound, Church-Bound nation.

    1. I read somewhere that tropical cultures tend to be less open to outsiders and therefore less inclined to consolidate and form large organised societies. The theory behind this is in how in humid tropical climates, the risk of contracting microbial infection is higher than in temperate or colder climates (where drier air makes transmission of disease more difficult). So this sort of selection pressure favoured evolution of cultures that were highly suspicious of novelty, shunned contact with foreigners, and were averse to exploration of the unknown.

      1. Actually, that observation pretty much on the very fringe side of things and is inconsistent with the prevailing “canon” of socio-anthropological observations across cultures from warm climates versus cultures from cold climates.

        Cold climates have traditionally been much “colder” in terms of interpersonal relations, usually being much more reserved, quiet, more private, and less gregarious than those cultures from warmer climates.

        Montesquieu himself as did other observers saw that difference. Northern Europeans were much more “reserved” as opposed to the Italians, Spaniards, and Southern French who were extremely sociable, extremely talkative, friendly, gregarious, and open to making friends with just anyone.

        Moving down the latitudes closer to the equator, the phenomenon increases.

        * * * *

        So in short, it’s not true that tropical countries tend to be less open to outsiders. It’s actually the exact opposite: it’s warmer countries that are usually more open, and more gregarious.

        Of course, that that doesn’t mean that there are no “hostile” or warlike cultures that develop. Sometimes, there are certain pressures that cause these behavioral patterns to occur, but from a ceteris paribus perspective, the warmer the climate a culture is from, the more likely it is to be gregarious, sociable, and open to outsiders.

        * * * * *

        The issue of Filipinos being against outsiders or closed to outsiders is actually a recent phenomenon, fueled by misguided ideological dogma reminiscent of the “Nationalism” that was propagated in the 1960’s.

        What such people forget is that in the latter years of Spanish rule, after the Basco reforms initiated by Governor-General Basco, international trading companies that were out to do trans-Asi, Asia-to-Europe and Asia-to-the-Americas trade set up in the Philippines. A lot of multinational companies also got set up, fueling the kind of economic development which was responsible for the creation of the elite “Ilustrado” class of intellectuals.

        Among those originally “foreign-owned” companies was what has now become a “national industry” in the Philippines: San Miguel Beer.

      2. Interesting. There is closed economically and closed culturally.

        I think closure to foreign investment is economic and not cultural, or is cultural from the standpoint that “this land/business/industry is MINE (Ego-in-action)and I don’t want no whitey owning it, or the neighbor’s place”. So laws are passed.

        Then there is a mixed signal, culturally, about other races, or at least the white one.

        First, whites are admired and emulated, so slop on the whitening creams. Their music and clothes and stars are chased. Second, they are, in person, considered oddities and stared at as if they were from another planet. Third, they are generally accepted as a spouse without the kind of condemnation that occurs in, say, China or Japan.

        One thing that is clear, however. The motivation and ability to change is missing.

  3. “If the Leaders have no Visions; the People will Perish”…this qoute, comes from the Old Testament of the Hebrew/Christian Bible. I have never seen a Feudal Oligarchy country, industrialized. French had to remove its aristocracy. Russia had to shed its Serfdom. China had to remove its landowning classes. Before these countries, industrialized. Our country is even controled by Roman Catholic Theocracy.
    So, attracting foreign investments is just a slogan of these self-serving leaders. They know what ails the nation. Yet, they will never lift a finger to remedy the ills. Because, it affects them; their landholdings; revise the power structure; jeoperdize their business-money making enterprises, etc…the status qou will remain…unless people become aware, that they are taken for a ride by these political family dynasties, that rule our country…

  4. “This refers to our ability as a people to create and grow capital indigenously”

    what does this mean? how do you know this? all economies grow capital indigenously. unless capital means something else to you?

      1. why? i dont get your point, and your meaning. surely, you dont mean physical capital. there are factories, farms, roads, etc. surely you dont mean everyone in the country is unemployed. SOME (in fact, most) people have jobs…

        maybe, you mean that the fact that there is “too much” employment, or “too little” capital? if so, why not just say that?

      2. i just wrote down what i dont get.

        what do you mean by capital? indigenous capital? “employ oneself”?

        because, by its REGULAR MEANING, there IS capital. so what do you mean?

      3. i already answered that too! whats wrong with you today? are u ok?

        “why? i dont get your point, and your meaning.”

        1. Nope there’s nothing wrong with me, dude. And no, you haven’t answered my question.

          You want to “get” my “point” and my “meaning” to what end exactly? In short: Where do you plan to take this line of questioning? Is it to understand the overall point of the article? Or is it just to quibble on terminology?

      4. “In short: Where do you plan to take this line of questioning? ”

        it depends! if your question is answered, then that might be the end of it. if something still doesnt make sense, you have further questions, and then you ask questions.

        this is how it works in real life, when people have CONVERSATIONS.

        have you ever had a conversation before? an honest, openminded exchange of views?

        man, this is so obvious, this exchange is bordering on ridiculous.

        you see, when you start a conversation with an end in mind, thats not a conversation — thats propaganda.

  5. Quibble is a great word. Generally Socratic questioning is used when one does not wish to lay one’s own thinking on the line first. Now, for a teacher, that is fine. It forces the student to extend his own thinking. However, as a way to construct a productive dialogue, it is evasive and manipulative. It is the opposite of forthright.

    1. quibbling, by definition, is a put down. it means that the question is trivial, non-important.

      now, B0 is the one that speaks of CAPITAL. his ENTIRE PIEICE is based on this, as well as the lack of ability to raise it.

      if he is vague about his CENTRAL ARGUMENT, then by definition, its not trivial, hence questioning it is not quibbling.

      1. Quibble is indeed a trivial complaint. However, as Humpty Dumpty would note, a word means whatever it is intended to mean by whoever says it. It is intensely irritating to have oneself questioned while the questioner retains for himself the secret of his motive and intent. It is like being sniped at from the distant trees. It is not forthright.

      2. again with motives. what kind of world do you guys live in?

        is discussion tantamount to some kind of war?

        cant people just exchange views, question each other’s views, without it being a battle?

        geez …

        also, words mean whatever it is intended to mean? to a certain extent, i guess, but only VERBALLY. written text is much tougher to put on a mean subtext.

        at any rate, if motives are indeed a problem, why blog or comment on blogs in the first place, if you dislike potentially bad motivations? the idea of a blog is to put out your ideas — if you dont like people questioning it, or if you fear people would misunderstand it, why put it up at all?

    2. here’s an example of “quibbling”:

      “The Prodigal Son is basically the story of the Filipino — but without the happy Hollywood ending. Whereas the biblical version of the story sees the Prodigal Son’s daddy killing the fattened calf to welcome him back, the Filipino, unfortunately, sees no such ending in sight.”

      if i had said, :”the first phrase should be the opposite: the story of the filipino (whatever that is), is basically the tale of the prodigal sone — but without the happy ending”.

      see, its quibbling coz the comment has got nothing to do with the concept of employment, investment, etc.

  6. Your model on the relationship between population and economy sounds just like it came directly from the sundry proto-fascist and Malthusian literature that claims the best method of reducing poverty and other economic and social ills, is to reduce the poor and the “unfit”.

    See my essay on this matter, “The Philippines: Underdeveloped, but not Overpopulated”, available at the website above.

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