Rising costs, corruption in PH worry US firms

By Max V. de Leon, BusinessMirror

Posted at Sep 09 2011 06:52 AM | Updated as of Sep 09 2011 09:33 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Rising housing and living costs, as well as corruption and poor infrastructure, continue to bother American businessmen in the Philippines, according to a recent survey of the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) covering firms operating in Southeast Asia.

But the good news, according to the Asean Business Outlook Survey, is that the outlook on the business climate in the Philippines is positive overall. Majority (77%) of the respondents believe there will be an expansion in economic growth and only 2% expect an economic contraction.

Still, 85% expect living costs to increase, and 75% predict housing costs will rise, the survey said.

“Corruption and concerns about the infrastructure continue to be issues to businesses in the Philippines, and this year, laws and regulations were also cited as a concern,” AmCham added.

On the whole, Southeast Asia is increasingly becoming important for American businesses.

“While US businesses generally continue to favorably view the business outlook in Asean, the Asean Business Outlook Survey did find that rising costs and corruption are some factors to watch out for. In a time of economic uncertainty, we hope that our survey will help shed light on the strengths and concerns of doing business,” said Simon Kahn, chairman of AmCham Singapore.

“We will continue to work together with government agencies, chambers and business associations to improve the environment for US companies in the region,” he added.

Majority of companies, or 73%, expect the region’s importance to their business will increase over the next two years, while 85 % plan to expand their business in the region, and not a single company plans to contract. Almost a third of respondents stated that Indonesia would be their top site for expansion.

The survey also revealed that the Asean free-trade agreements are vital for US businesses, with 80% of respondents saying their companies use the tariff benefits Asean members have completed with their trade partners. The Asean-China free-trade agreement was also highly rated with 49% of companies using its benefits.