ACI BALESIN CONVENTION

Days before the much talked about convention on the private island of Balesin, there were whispers of skepticism about how this convention would offer new surprises and would be different from previous conventions. But people who attended the Balesin convention would think otherwise. For one, the 15-minute plane ride made the trip easier and more convenient.  One minute you’re chatting with a delegate in the Alphaland Hanger and then in just less than 30 minutes, you’re sipping some refreshing fruit juice on a beautiful, secluded island while listening to the sounds of the crashing ocean waves. The ACI Directors and working team greeted the delegates with warm smiles and excited voices for their hard work would finally bear fruit.

Friday night at the beautiful Royal Balesin started out with a short talk from Bloomberg’s John Lagman and Gregg Tan, in which they tackled the trends in the FX market today and how these differed from past trends. They pointed out that the current trend of the USD is similar to that of the year 1999, where the currency traded range bound before eventually breaking higher. This was followed by a sumptuous Italian dinner sponsored by the gracious Bloomberg Team and Brokers’ Night. It was a relaxing, laid back kind of evening, which allowed for good conversations, new acquaintances and just the right buzz to allow everyone to make it to the 9:00am call time the next day.

The 2016 ACI Convention Proper was well attended by almost 100% of the delegates and surprisingly, most were on time.  Even those who flew in that Saturday morning were able to attend the convention and enjoy the entertaining and educational talks given by our esteemed speakers. The ACI President formally commenced the convention, which focused this year on the theme: “Sustaining Gains through Best Practices and Professionalism in these Challenging and Changing Times.” She highlighted the active involvement of the ACI in uplifting and empowering activities such as a scholarship program for University of the Philippines’ students, policy making with BSP, SEC and BAP, and more importantly, corporate social responsibility initiatives. The first speaker, Reuter’s Nigel Fuller talked about the best practices in the financial industry, highlighting the many ways in which technology and trading platforms can make trading more efficient while allowing for more transparency in the market.

There were concerns that the ACI would not be able to come up with speakers on time, but they did just the opposite.  With a speaker like Professor Winnie Monsod, everyone was interested to listen. The morning started out with mock elections for the 2016 presidential and vice presidential race. Professor Monsod then discussed the high degree of correlation between politics and economic growth. She explained how graft and corruption negatively affect the economy. She singled out the role of political dynasties in corruption. Because of the political dynasties here in the Philippines, we have become repressed by what has come to be known as the “buwaya problem”.  This disease, which is a direct result of greed and thirst for power, has slowly consumed our economy, making us the country with one of the slowest growth rate every year.  In 1960, China had only 1/3 of the Philippines’ per capita income. But over the past several years, the Philippines lagged behind other developing countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and Sri Lanka.

Professor Monsod also gave a brief outline of the Philippines’ development throughout history and how most of our presidential and vice presidential candidates, except for a few, were part of political dynasties. Professor Monsod noted the strong connection between political dynasties and corruption citing several political studies and comparing economic performance and level of corruption perception among Asian countries. According to Professor Monsod, we were once the country with the biggest potential to succeed considering our vast natural resources, but a country’s success depends to a large extent on good government policies and institutions, which we sadly do not have. She highlighted the relevance of the vice presidency especially since three out of the five presidential candidates have health and candidacy issues. Therefore, the possibility of a vice president succeeding the president before his or her term is over is very likely. The Professor talked with hope and aspiration for our country and it was evident that these feelings rubbed on to everyone who was listening.  We cannot let “the buwaya problem” or the culture of corruption continue to ruin our country and its future.

To end the convention proper, the ACI Committee conducted another presidential and vice presidential mock elections. This time a new winner emerged. Professor Monsod succeeded  indeed in guiding potential voters in choosing who is best suited to continue the economic agenda being pursued by the current administration. The voting poll veered away from candidates identified as member of political dynasties which were deemed to be more prone to commit corruption. It was a successful exercise.

Of course, the much awaited fun night was something everyone was looking forward to.  It was held in the beautiful Mykonos Village, where the space was big and breezy, allowing everyone to feel relaxed and comfortable the whole night.  The Greek food was delectable and our Balesin hosts were nothing short of accommodating that weekend.

The ACI Team was hands-on the entire event and the convention exceeded a lot of expectations.  It was not only well-planned, but most importantly, well-executed, with much thought and effort put into every detail of the event.  Everyone returned home stress-free with no problems regarding flight delays and cancellation.  It was a well-rounded weekend with equal amounts of fun, seriousness, quiet sunsets, lively music, and great conversations.  Thank you ACI for a wonderful weekend.

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