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Arroyo faces dirty war on many fronts

Being an investment banker in the Philippines is rarely dull. One day you might find yourself being blamed for triggering a collapse in the currency, the next winning a mandate for an unplaceable bond deal. Nerves and tempers are being frayed in the country’s financial markets by fears about collapsing exports, a weakening currency, fiscal deficits and exclusion from international capital markets. Everyone hopes that the new president can clean up the mess.

Jose Isidro
N Camacho

The celebrations are over. But president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's task goes well beyond tidying up after the party celebrating her rise to the top seven months ago. She also has to clean up the mess left behind by her predecessor, Joseph Erap Estrada. The immensity of the task has slapped Arroyo squarely in the face. In between knocking back $3,000 bottles of red wine and holding cabinet meetings while chatting to friends and business associates, Estrada very nearly succeeded in bringing about the collapse of the Philippine infrastructure. And now, as Joel Consing, HSBC's Philippines head of investment banking, puts it: "It's going to be very difficult to get us out of the hole that he dug us into."

The news that comes out of the Philippines is a public relations nightmare for the relatively new administration. Foreign investors are very jittery.

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