Why PH needs to improve investment freedom

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Posted at Feb 20 2015 10:55 AM | Updated as of Feb 20 2015 06:55 PM

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MANILA, Philippines - The Philippines is among the very best performers in terms of improving economic freedom or promoting equal economic equal economic opportunity and prosperity, but it still needs improvement.

The publishers of the 2015 Index of Economic Freedom say while the Philippines has had an 11 percent improvement in economic freedom over the last five years, it must do more in terms of freedom of investment.

"The Philippines' score is 60, no change over the past year. It's not bad, slightly above the world average. But in terms of the countries you are actually competing for investments with, it is not a particularly strong area. Other countries would have scores in the 80 to 90 range," Terry Miller, executive director of The Heritage Foundation, said.

"So this is an area where there are still substantial regulatory burdens in the economy, a number of restrictions that guard selected areas. I am told that perhaps that this is even an area tht some sort of Constitutional change might have to be envisioned to make reforms in this area," he added.

Miller is referring to Charter change to allow more foreign ownership in the country that of course is a very touchy topic, as many still fear lawmakers could use it to abuse their power.

But the Aquino government has done well even without Charter change.

Last year, it grew foreign direct investments to nearly $6 billion, despite averaging just $3.5 billion in the two years before.

But even then, the Philippines still ranked lowest among ASEAN nations.

"You may feel, 'Oh, there is a disconnection, we have this much economic freedom but where is our FDI?' But as we know it will take some time, but in the case of the Philippines, it's not that far away. Already you've been implementing good policies over the past five years, not just a year or two over the past five years," Anthony Kim, senior policy analyst, The Heritage Foundation, said.

Such policies include the opening up of the banking sector to foreign companies, which has so far drawn interest from Japanese banks and other regional players. - ANC