The national government has been advancing recommendations of the Joint Foreign Chambers of the Philippines (JFC) in policy reforms and development, but has not been fast enough to entirely achieve inclusive growth amid the robust 6 percent to 7 percent economic growth in the last five years.
JFC, the largest group of foreign investors to the Philippines, has been active in creating sectoral policy notes yearly as a recommendation to the government to further enhance programs and reforms that will improve the country’s economic growth.
According to the JFC 2015 Assessment released on Tuesday during the Arangkada Philippines Forum, about 74.5 percent of JFC’s 462 recommendations to the government — with topics covering economic, industrial, employment, and investment growth — are already active and moving.
This is an improvement compared to the 51.44 percent that are active and moving in the first assessment conducted in 2011.
“The active or moving total in 2015 was very close to the total in 2014 of 74.22 percent, indicating continuing progress of reforms underway,” the JFC said in a statement.
These active recommendations in policy reforms were observed in sectors such as business process outsourcing, infrastructure, manufacturing, and tourism.
Not fast enough
This may be an improvement, but for Julian Payne, president of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines (CanCham), this is not fast enough.
“The fiscal policy of the country is very good. K to 12 is the major change. There’s a little bit of turnaround in tourism and mining. But if you compare it with our neighbors, there’s still a long way to go,” Payne said in a press conference during the Arangkada Forum.
“There hasn’t been inclusive growth and creation of jobs… Basically, there has been a failure of real growth in the agriculture and mining sector which have the greatest potential for employment and development in the rural remote areas,” he said.
“To increase inclusive growth, you have to address rural unemployment,” he added, citing that developments in three focus sectors — agriculture, mining, and tourism — would be able to generate more jobs in the country.
According to the Assessment, the JFC noted that there should be “strengthened and reinforced” reform in sectors including agribusiness, creative industries, infrastructure, seaports, telecommunications, logistics and mining, lowering business costs, greater access for foreign equity and professionals, local governance, security, education and poverty alleviation.
The foreign business group is urging the government to improve policies such as easing restrictions to investments that will create jobs and result in an inclusive growth.
“The public sector is the enabler of job growth, while the private sector is the engine. The two must work in parallel for inclusive growth and job creation,” JFC said.
The group said these issues must be recognized by the incoming administration after the national and local elections slated on May 9.
“For the Philippines to make growth more inclusive, the incoming administration and future leaders should undertake reforms that sustain and increase GDP [gross domestic product]growth. This will require continued good governance, political will to undertake more structural reforms, better infrastructure, a fair regulatory regime, and lower business costs, among others,” JFC said.
Economists have long said that the Philippines may achieve inclusive growth with 8 percent to 9 percent GDP growth.
At present, the country has been growing by 6 percent to 7 percent yearly, growing at an
average of 6.2 percent in the last five years.
Spearheaded by the foreign business groups, the yearly Arangkada Philippines Forum is an initiative and advocacy of the JFC, which discusses issues and solutions to increase investment and employment rates in the Philippines.
Among the noted policies pushed by the Arangkada and JFC is the Philippine Competition Law under the Republic Act 10667, which seeks to employ efficiency of market competition that will provide a level playing field in businesses in the country.
Creating the Philippine Commission Competition, the law mandates the protection of consumer welfare and enriches domestic and international trade, as well as economic development.