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The Philippines: No longer a paradox

THE Philippines was once described by the World Bank as a paradox.

That’s how Joachim von Amsberg, World Bank country director in the Philippines, called our country during the middle of the past decade. He said then that the Philippines was rich in natural resources, with a large pool of skilled and English-speaking workers and strategically located close to the booming India and China, and yet it has not been able to realize its full potentials for rapid social and economic development.

Today, I am sure Mr. Amsberg, if he has been following up on what has been happening in the Philippines since his transfer to another assignment, will agree that our country is now realizing its full potentials.

Instead of a paradox, the right term to describe the Philippines, particularly its economy, is a phenomenon or a marvel. Yes, I think marvel, which means something that evokes admiration or wonder, best describes the Philippines today.

I have been going around the country in the past few months and I continue to be excited by the things I see in our archipelago. I feel good, and as a businessman who have seen the ups and downs in doing business, I can firmly say this is the best time to be a businessman in the Philippines.

I’m in real estate, but the wonderful things that are happening around us are not limited to my line of business. In addition to the housing phenomenon (we are enjoying what may be the longest property boom in the Philippines), we have the business-process outsourcing (BPO), which did not only survive the threats from American politicians during the 2012 presidential campaign, but continues its robust growth. The BPO phenomenon has also given birth to another phenomenon: the 24-hour cities, starting in Metro Manila and several other cities.

The tourism phenomenon is just beginning.  Pretty soon, the 5.5-million tourist-arrival target for this year will become a very conservative goal, with the opening of new tourist facilities, such as Ricky Razon’s Solaire, the first of four integrated resort and entertainment centers in the upcoming Entertainment City of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor). Indeed, the tourism phenomenon will revolutionize employment in the countryside and spark economic activities in the regions.

Today, we are no longer talking of abstracts, like growth potentials. The 6.6-percent gross domestic product (GDP) growth in 2012 is concrete proof that the Philippine potential is now being realized. The investment-grade credit rating that Fitch Ratings recently gave us only formalized the treatment that the financial markets and investors have been extending to our economy, which is projected to remain the second fastest-growing in Asia after China.

We have the foundation and strengths that will propel us to continue realizing our potentials. Our 10 million overseas Filipino workers, which sent more than $21 billion in remittances last year, will continue to support the growth of our consumption-based economy.

The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas continues to implement policies that keep interest rates low while exercising vigilance to keep the banking system resilient to threats from crisis regions like Europe.

For its part, the government continues to support growth with public spending on infrastructure as well as on social assistance, like the Conditional Cash-Transfer Program.

We still have to see the flow of substantial direct foreign investments that will speed up growth and create stable and long-term employment, but we are getting there, faster rather than slower. 

(To be continued)


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