The Philippines must address pressing issues concerning the conduciveness of the country’s business and political environments to enable the local industries to fully benefit from the opportunities presented by the economic integration in the region, an economist from the Asian Development Bank said.
In a statement issued by the Department of Trade and Industry, ADB senior economist Norio Usui cited the country’s unstable political climate, strict constitutional restrictions on foreign ownership, inefficient infrastructure, poor business and investment environment as among the issues that should be addressed before the Asean Economic Community (AEC) takes shape.
Usui said that while “everyone celebrates the Philippines’ economic performance, we still have homework to do” in order to benefit from the integration of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), under which the 10 member states will be turned into a single market characterized by the freer flow and movement of goods, services, investments, skilled labor and capital.
The Asean common market in 2015 is expected to create new demands within and outside the region, and facilitate technology transfer and contribute to efficiencies in production.
With a population of over 600 million people and combined gross domestic product of nearly $3 trillion, the Asean is expected to become the seventh largest economy in the world.
Usui also pointed out that, while the economy could be considered stronger today, the benefits of such growth might not be felt by the people on the grassroots level.
“Despite the economic growth, labor market indicators continue to show that over 7 percent of Filipinos can’t find a job, and about 20 percent of the people continue to be classified as underemployed,” Usui said. “Filipinos still do not enjoy the benefits of a strong economy.”
Cielito F. Habito, former director general of the National Economic and Development Authority, concurred as he noted that one of the challenges faced by the Philippine government was how to increase jobs in the country.
He said that, while the economy grew 7.2 percent, the number of jobs only grew 0.17 percent in 2013. He then urged large enterprises to “pursue the triple bottom line of people, planet and profit to help make inclusive growth/development a reality.”
Written by: Amy Remo