Whoever emerges as the winners of the national elections next week should continue to purse necessary government reforms to improve agriculture, infrastructure, the entry of foreign direct investments and transparency.
This was the key message of the participants of the ING-Economic Journalists Association of the Philippines Forum held in Makati City on Tuesday.
ING Bank Manila senior economist Joey Cuyegkeng said Filipinos must select good leaders that will bring the Philippine economy to higher levels of growth, and at the same time, distribute this growth to a greater number of people.
“The economic growth momentum is there, and it will be carried over up to 2017, but beyond that, the management of the new leaders will have a significant role moving forward,” he said.
Cuyegkeng said while the current government has put in place legislated reforms like the Competition Act, the next administration have to come up with new set of reforms.
“Of course, a new set of reforms has to come in, like the freedom of information [act]that ensures transparency in the government. For us, transparency is very critical,” he said.
In addition, the ING economist said income tax reform is something that the new government has to take a look at.
“The income tax reform is crucial also in terms of corporate income tax, we are in the Asean [Association of Southeast Asian Nations] community and our corporate tax rates are so high. If we are going to try to attract foreign direct investments [FDI], we have to also be aligned with our competitors abroad,” he said.
Meanwhile, DMCI Holdings Chairman Sid Consunji said investment in infrastructure should be the top priority of the next leaders.
“We have been underinvesting in infrastructure in the last 30 to 40 years” he said.
Second, he said the new government must focus on mining, tourism, land ownership and agriculture.
“How do you create employment in provinces if there is no mining? Mining can be responsible in the employment of many people,” he said.
“Tourism also, the fact that there is much activity in Baguio and Tagaytay is because infrastructure improved dramatically,” he added.
Lastly, he said the new government must address constraints on acquiring land ownership, especially for farmers.
“The Bangko Sental ng Pilipinas do not allow rural banks to lend to farmers if they do not have land titles. That is a very enabling act. You would enable people to create wealth for themselves if they have ownership of land,” he pointed out.
Finally, he said that if the government does not put emphasis on agriculture, the people would be the ones to suffer.
“Despite all the research and models, we never really invested in agriculture. Many people are poor because our agriculture sector is not productive,” he said.
For his part, Phinma Corp. President and Chief Executive Officer Ramon del Rosario Jr., said being a laggard in the Asean in terms of FDIs, it would be very beneficial for the country to remove the economic restrictions to foreign ownership in the Constitution.
“Allow Congress to act on whether there should be restrictions… because they can decide much more on this,” he said.
“We would hope that the Congress will act and free certain sectors of the economy for much stronger entry of foreign investments in our economy,” he added.
Lastly, del Rosario said that besides capital, foreign investors bring with them world-class management and business practices.
“All these things together will make the economy stronger and will eventually lead to job creation,” he concluded.