'Philippine economy must grow by 9 pct to cut poverty'

Posted at 02/10/14 1:18 PM


MANILA, Philippines - The Philippine economy must grow by 9 percent every year to reduce poverty, foreign businessmen said.

Top officials of the American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, Inc. and Australian - New Zealand Chamber of Commerce Philippines said the economy's current performance of 7% has yet to translate to more jobs.

"There has been a lot of talk about the trickle-down effect. It takes a long time to trickle down, but 7% for us is not enough. [We want] the economy to grow by 9%, but it needs to grow by 9% for many, many years," Ian Porter, president of ANZCHAM, told ANC.

The Philippine economy grew by 7.2% in 2013, exceeding both the government's 6-7% target and market expectations of 7%.

More jobs could be created if government boosts the manufacturing sector.

“Manufacturing is a tremendous opportunity. If you would set up in certain areas in provinces for a lower cost manufacturing… [and] have some flexibility on minimum wage and for some way to provide lower costs, you could set up zones and create opportunities for thousands and thousands of people in manufacturing," AMCHAM president and FedEx Philippines managing director Ricke Jennings said.

However, some economic provisions of the Constitution are discouraging foreign manufacturers from building more factories here.

According to Porter, recent Supreme Court decisions and economic provisions in the Constitution have made it difficult for foreign investors to see the Philippines as a good place for investments

“There are a lot of barriers to fund direct investments in the Philippines... The court has made decisions recently that have made a big impact on the way investors see the Philippines. This is also on the economic provisions of the Constitution... [the] 60-40 rule. There have been some decisions of the Supreme Court which have reinforced the idea that foreigners are not welcome unless they partner with a Philippine company," Porter said.

Foreign chamber groups are holding thsir third anniversary forum of "Arangkada Philippines," where they are expected to hammer out policy recommendations for the Aquino government. The forum will be held on 26, 2014.

The groups have been monitoring 471 recommendations made back in 2010, to which they review the progress on key issues in industries such as mining, tourism, health care and services.

“We monitor all these recommendations continually, then each year we bring all those recommendations together and we make an assessment as to how the government has performed in carrying out these recommendations,” Jennings said.

In hopes that the Philippines will soon catch up with its neighboring countries, Porter said that foreign investments needs to double to effectively see change.

“(We) hope that the President would look at that because it would really make a major impact on foreign investment. The Philippines has done quite well, in a sense, in increasing foreign investment. But it's still half of what its major neighbors receive. It needs to more than double,” he said. - With Fidea Encarnacion, ABS-CBNnews.com and ANC