PH laws very restrictive, 'overly scared' of foreigners: Nye

Posted at 08/03/2012 6:29 PM | Updated as of 08/03/2012 10:32 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Despite positive signs for growth, the Philippine economy still could not take off due to restrictions on foreign investments in the country, an economist at a new Philippine think tank said.

John Nye, executive director of the Angara Centre for Law and Economic Policy, believes Philippine laws are very restrictive and overly scared of foreigners.

The result, he said, is that there are more jobs for Filipinos abroad than in their own country.

"Is there some compromise where we open up a little bit, enough to attract more investments so that we can hire more workers in the Philippines?" Nye told reporters in a press briefing on Friday during the Angara Centre's inaugurual conference on globalization, innovation, and economic growth.

The leaders of both chambers of Congress are currently leading efforts to start discussions on Charter change, precisely to amend economic provisions that limit foreign ownership of businesses in the country.

Aside from being part of the Angara Centre, Nye is also the Frederic Bastiat Chair in Political Economy at the Mercatus Center of George Mason University.

During Friday's conference, some speakers from abroad cited factors that can enable the Philippine economy to take off.

"Incredible amount of human talent and energy, ability to blend cultures, great facility in the English language, the notion that prosperity should not be taken for granted," said Dr. Tyler Cowen, general director of George Mason University's Mercatus Center. "These are what strike me the most in the few days I've had here."

Cowen, the conference's keynote speaker, said that although the program of prosperity for the Philippines is hardly finished, "I can see very strong fundamentals here."

Named after Sen. Edgardo Angara, the Angara Centre was launched in August to raise the standard of policy studies and research in the country by attracting the best Filipino scholars and experts from other countries.

Angara described the institution as a "small initial step at trying to open the Filipino mind to the outside world."

As a legislator, Angara said he had problems in the past coming up with sound research-based bills. He added that the current quality of policymaking in the country is poor.

"We have good researchers, but there is no such organized research on strategic areas, research that would spill over to policy studies that would support lawmaking," Angara said.

With the Angara Centre, the senator hopes Philippines government officials would be able to come up with sound policies and "invite new ideas, new insights so we can join the global conversation."