Long distance rates – a barometer of economic progress?

At a small Asian mall where I normally have my monthly haircut I saw a sign at a store window  : “ FREE OVERSEAS CALL – 30 MINUTES”. It was a promotion for a startup company competing in the VOIP ( Voice Over IP ) or voice over the internet space. The ad was true and you can call for free to any of the 20 countries the company covers under its unlimited overseas plan. Unfortunately, RP was not included in the list. I already got a sense that RP is a long shot, considering the ludcirous long distance rate it charges compared to other countries. I blogged about this issue in 2007 and things haven’t changed. After a couple of years, RP rates have just gone down a tad 2 cents per minute on the average, from 13 cents down to 11 cents. Pretty pathetic considering that other countries have opened up, making their countries accessible for business.

This company offers 9.9 cents per min for cell phone but 11.9 cents for landline. Still high. Moreover, businesses use landlines more than cell phones.  Very high compared to India, where the rate dropped from 7.9 cents to 1.9 cents over the last 2 years. Now this tells me that India is open for business. True to India’s reputation of being the world’s largest call center outsourcer, its cheap long distance rates certainly helps in promoting the business.   Contrast this with the high rates to RP  because  a clique of RP telecom carriers are playing their selfish game of enriching their treasure chests, trying to hold on to their monopolistic practices.  Blame the government for its lame policies, reneging on its mission to promote the interests of the country first, allowing itself to be manipulated by the powerful bigwigs of the telecom industry.  While the rest of the world are opening up and embracing deregulation, RP is acting only on the interests of  a  couple of telecom providers,  whose main mission is the preservation of their obscene profit margins and the systematic decimation of potential competitors.
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Post Office Blues

Last year my wife sent 5 Christmas cards to her relatives, all of them with a few photos inside and lo and behold, only 2 cards made it to their destination 😯 This is the first time we lost more than half of the letters sent. We know that the Phil post office isn’t perfect but we are appalled that they have become progressively worse, that simple greeting cards with photos are being pilfered to find out if they contain foreign currency notes and discarded if no cash are found. When I was in grade school, I was told that posted letters are sacred and should be treated with maximum privacy. This kind of thinking had been ingrained in my habit and I find it repulsive to be snooping on people’s letters. Unfortunately this code of honor is no longer a virtue at the Phil Post Office for God knows how long now. At this very moment I feel that shit has hit the ceiling fan and workers are behaving with wanton disregard when it comes to controls and accountability. It appears that the officials had joined the fray of pathetic rascals prying open people’s letters looking for cash and valuables. It has become a Smoky Mountain scenario, where people’s letters are a mound of trash with postal workers scavenging for anything of value they can find. 😡 The sad part is who do you complain to ? The registered letter option is so far the only alternative means to ensure that it gets to the destination. But it is a pain because one has to go to the post office to claim the letter. I personally haven’t encountered discrepancies yet but I don’t know for how long.

The most reliable means would be through courier like Fedex which is quite expensive. I have sent important documents to Pinas via Fedex and they all arrived on time. But then Fedex is international and global couriers conform to stringent service level agreements and accountability clauses. Expediency and reliability are qualities that make them survive in the market. Not all couriers are equal though. A few years ago, at my request, my sister-in-law couriered a greeting card to my niece in Bacolod via LBC Cargo, a courier that calls itself international. The card contained a C$50 bill , a gift to my niece on her birthday. Alas the card reached Bacolod but in an opened state with the C$50 bill missing . My sister-in-law went to the LBC Las Pinas office where she sent the card to complain and the clerk simply pointed her to the note on the wall that says no “cash should not be sent with any package and LBC is not responsible if they are lost “. Just like that. First of all, why was the package opened? Both the Bacolod and Las Pinas office denied any responsibility. 👿 Since LBC is a full-fledged courier service company and doesn’t hire a third party to deliver their cargo to their regional distribution offices, who then was responsible ? 😡

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Can Someone Please Explain?

Here’s an ad of international long distance rates to the more popular destinations from Canada :

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And here’s an ad of international long distance rates to Latin America, South Asia  and Africa  ( click on pic to enlarge ) :


When you see ads like these, what comes to your mind ? It isn’t overly difficult to discern that economically prosperous, technologically advanced , politically stable and business-friendly countries have the cheapest long distance rates isn’t it ? Fair assumption ? If so, does it makes sense for  Rwanda, Botswana, Ghana ,Sudan and Uganda, poor countries that are in the bottom of the list  of the UN Human Development Index report to have cheaper long distance rates than Pinas ?WTF is wrong with Pinas ? Can someone explain ?

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