DESPITE BEING ASIA’S “Golden Boy” in GDP growth reckoning, the Philippines appears to be the least attractive ASEAN nation to draw in Direct Foreign Investments.Â (This excludes the volatile “hot” money that goes in and out of the stock markets.)
Now that the Aquino era is facing its final curtain , initiatives to attract foreign investments by relaxing their ownership of certain industries hereÂ are flying thick and fast.Â Generally, a previous charter call liberalizing foreign ownership of certain industries had gottenÂ a lukewarm attitude from the Aquino economic managers.
Let us look at land, education, media and mining, for starters.
We are for foreign ownership of land. Because land is something one cannot ever take out of the country.
As long as there are reasonable caps on the repatriation of dividends of fully owned foreign real estate companies, RP should be Ok. The foreign fund influx could raise prices of Philippine real estate .True.But wouldn’t we want our real estateÂ to be valued against global standards of valuation?
Besides the resulting bigger real estate taxes could be a definitive source of funding for moreÂ government public services, as well.
Bringing in fully owned foreign educational institutions,on the other hand, Â looks like a no brainer issue. We should welcome them most especially the technology and science-based learning institutions. Our bright boys need not Â travel to Pennsylvania, New York, London to get Ivy league level degrees.
For us, foreign media shouldÂ also be allowed liberal entry. Let’s face it- many of the huge media institutions are owned by persons with other business interests or are Â linked to influential economic and political personalities. And ownership usually dictates what happens at the mediaÂ studios or news rooms. They may not necessarily- if primarily serve-Â public interest before parochialÂ concerns.
In essence, we would , therefore, rather see “a thousandÂ flowers bloom”, so to speak. TheÂ fear of possible infiltration of “foreign bias” into the newsrooms can easily be erased by a discerning public who can tell news from propaganda. We are not fearful of such risk- trusting in the maturity of the Filipino audience.
However, we would disabuse the minds of some that allowing foreign media here would result in hundreds of new Filipino hirees.Â Absolutely not.There would likely be more expatriates on the senior management level Â here andÂ world-wide automation had resulted in media being cutting manpower rather than increasing their use. This should, therefore, not be used as the main plus for allowing foreign ownership of media.
Mining, remains a contentious area-more due to environmental concerns.
However, given the findings that the Philippines is now one of the most resource-rich (land and sea) nation on earth- it would be a shame not to tap foreign money to develop them. Local capital would never be enough to fully harness the vast resources inside our land and sea bed surfaces,
As new NEDA chief Dr Ernie Pernia had said at the outset- Government must be able to get moreÂ share Â of the fruits of mining than currently allowed.
They should also be legislated to obligatorilyÂ provide educational and healthÂ welfare services to the locals in areas they will set camps and give top priorityÂ to local hirees within the 30 kilometer radius of the mining site. Stating the obvious- no environmental violation must be allowed. Instead they should be required to replant or replenish what is being unnecessarily prejudiced of our natural assetsÂ because of their mining activities.
Foreigners will be welcomed by the prevalent “industrial peace” Â generally enjoyed here Â during the Aquino regime. DOLE has been able to do the necessary out of court arbitration of most labor-management disputes.
But toÂ reallyÂ bring all these foreign interests in- we must address the BigÂ issue of high power cost here. In fact one of the highest Â in the world.
In most of Asia , government do subsidize power rates and surrender some fiscal loss in favor of attracting more investments thatÂ create jobs and help combat poverty. That choice must be made by the Duterte Government soonÂ if it wants to attract foreign investors,
Consider that most businesses trace from 15-40% of their cost of operations to power expenditures. Thailand’s power rate are a fifth of ours and Indonesia half of ours. How can we compete?
It is not just the cost but the sufficiencyÂ as well. A power supplyÂ gap is still projected based on currently applied forÂ new power sources.
Then there is the ease of doing business. We hope it is not true that it takes 60 signatures to get a powerÂ application through.
Boy, if this is true- a lot of spadework has to be done to undo this matter. Because getting in those foreign investorsÂ is absolutely neededÂ to fill in the hole or vacuum of development funds needed byÂ this capital-starved nation especially for infrastructure projects.
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