What's keeping PH from being on top? SyCip weighs in

Posted at 07/08/2013 8:44 PM | Updated as of 07/12/2013 6:37 PM

MANILA - Filipino-Chinese tycoon and philanthropist Washington SyCip shared his views on what he thinks is preventing the Philippines from becoming a top Asian economy.

The 92-year-old SyCip on Monday made a rare TV appearance on ANC's Headstart, where he candidly shared his views on Philippine politics and economy.

Asked what he thinks has kept the Philippines from becoming one of Asia's top economies, SyCip said: "If I were to be frank with you, two of the assets that we were told we had that would lead us to be a country in East Asia next to Japan, have become our liability. One is democracy, you can have a premature democracy. Just take the case of India and China. Both were very poor and compared to each other. Now China's GNP is four times of India's."

SyCip noted that if one spends a month in China or India, "if you come out, you would not be for democracy for a poor emerging nation."

Overpopulation is another problem of the Philippines. SyCip lamented that the Philippines is "the only country that does not have any kind of family planning."

"We're seeing one of the major problems of the country, with overpopulation, educational standards have gone down, illiteracy has increased. That's the poorest way of handling our human resources," he said.

Giving back to PH

SyCip, well known for his philanthropy, said he feels it is his job to return to the country what he earned through years of hard work.

"I feel very strongly whatever financial returns I've had are from the Philippines, so it's my job to give it back to the country," he said.

SyCip founded the accounting firm SyCip, Gorres & Velayo and Asian Institute of Management. But he said that he does not interfere with SGV operations, unless they ask him.

"My principle was when I retire, I don't look over the shoulders of the successors. If you do, then they don't exert their maximum competence," he said.

As for AIM, SyCip said one can never be satisfied with an educational institution. "I wish we could emphasize more southeast Asia and we could have more foreign students and professors," he said.

SyCip may be retired but he's still very busy. He still manages to skim through the pages of six newspapers every day and read The Economist and The New Yorker once a week, as well as talk with people of different ages so he can keep up with what's happening in the world.

He said his schedule has become more hectic since he now sits on the board of directors of at least 25 top Philippine companies.

"When I retired, many big companies called me up and said, 'now you can come to our boards.' So my schedule is hectic than ever... I don't say 'no' to areas where I feel I can be of help to the company or non-profit organization... In life, you feel you want to do something interesting and useful and that's what I've been doing," he said.

SyCip may be busy as ever but he joked that he may soon have a third career -- as a model. He related how Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario's wife asked him to walk on the catwalk for a recent charity fashion show.

"When I was asked to do the catwalk, it was something unusual... But I was the first man to show up there," he smiled.

As for the orange barong he wore on the show, SyCip said, "I told the barong makers that everyone should have different colors. Because if you have a white shirt, and wear only white, then three shirts are enough. If you wear color, you provide more jobs for the people making it. So that's what we need."