MANILA - Some business leaders warned of a slowed growth for the Philippines, saying full recovery could take four to five years if the country will not relax foreign ownership and accelerate consumption.
Calixto Chikiamco, president of the Foundation for Economic Freedom, said the country's GDP per capita may only go back to pre-pandemic levels within 4-5 years if economic reforms do not push through.
He added that regaining the lost value of the local economy may take two to three years.
The country's largest business groups want to limit amendments in the 1987 Constitution solely to economic reforms, saying the proposed charter change (Cha-cha) may distract lawmakers from other more pressing matters.
Chikiamco is pushing for easing of foreign ownership limits in firms through Cha-cha, likening it to Thailand and Vietnam where relaxed rules attract international investors.
"We have the most restrictive investment climate in the world because of the Constitution restriction...I think we should do an economic Cha-cha or at least pass the Public Service Act to remove transport and telecommunications from those industries where foreigners are barred from owning majority control," Chikiamco said.
For her part, Philippine Retailers Association President Rosemarie Bosch Ong said consumption needs to be restored to drive the economy.
Consumption, which contributed 70 percent of the Philippine economy before COVID-19, and consumer confidence will come back as soon as Filipinos are vaccinated against coronavirus.
"If you compare [the economy] to 2020 numbers, I guess we will see some improvements this 2021. But if you compare it to 2019, I guess, it's going to be a slight growth or just flat," Ong said.
The Philippine economy shrank 9.5 percent last year -- the worst contraction on record, and since World War 2 -- as impacts of COVID-19 battered businesses and put people out of jobs.
Forecasts by economists lead to a range of 3 to 5 percent growth for 2021, while the government is keeping its 6.5 to 7.5 percent economic target for this year.