If we go by the news reports we’ve been reading the past week on the participation of President Bongbong Marcos Jr. in the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, it’s an unqualified success.
This year’s WEF Annual Meeting carried the theme “Cooperation in a Fragmented World.”
At the outset, Marcos Jr. told the big gathering of business leaders from all over the world that the Philippine economy is projected to grow by around 7.0 percent in 2023.
He cited strong macroeconomic fundamentals, fiscal discipline, structural reforms and liberalization of key sectors as factors that enabled the country to withstand the negative shocks caused by the pandemic and succeeding economic downturns and carve a route toward strong recovery.
Marcos also emphasized the Philippines’ development plan contains strategic measures to accelerate economic and social recovery toward inclusive and resilient development.
One of these is digitalization as a key driver for long-term economic growth and as a tool for economic transformation.
The task ahead, he emphasized, is for the Philippines to continue to focus on sustaining recovery, and to promote an environment that will nurture businesses by helping them maximize their competitiveness and facilitate their entry into the global market.
For House Speaker Martin Romualdez, the Philippine participation in the forum effectively showcased the country as a premier investment hub.
“I think the delegation that came to Davos actually impressed the Davos attendees. We actually demonstrated how the Philippines, the President, his official family, the economic managers, alongside the top businessmen and women, showed a united front to the entire world.”
“People took notice of it and said that it’s obvious the Philippines is back. We are open for business, we are here listening and we are inviting everyone to see why the Philippines would be the best destination to invest,” he added.
The House leader said multinational companies such as investment giants Morgan Stanley, BlackRock, Ferrovial, and Sequoia, among others, are already planning to set up shop in the Philippines because of the ideal investment climate aside from the competencies of Filipino workers.
Romualdez also observed keen interest on the part of forum participants in the Maharlika Investment Fund proposed in the measure that the House of Representatives recently passed on final reading. He said lawmakers in the Philippine delegation were “listening to the concerns and to the sensitivities” of potential investors to ensure the proposed sovereign wealth fund conforms with the best practices in the global investment environment.
Socioeconomic Planning Secretary and concurrent Director General of the National Economic Development Authority Arsenio Balisacan welcomed the opportunity to take part in the forum as he said the challenge for the Philippines as an economy was articulating the good narrative about the country to key decision-makers abroad.
He explained: “I think the interaction will prove very useful because they want to hear whether the story that’s emerging in the Philippines is sustainable. It’s a long-term one because if they come in, it is a long-term decision.
“Investors are asking how the country is moving forward, what the policy concerns and issues are, the measures being undertaken to make the economy more attractive for investors.”
An important achievement of the Philippine delegation, Balisacan said, is that they were able to answer questions from the other participants who asked “direct, pointed, quite frank questions on the economy, on our institutions and on policies.”
Trade Secretary Fred Pascual also pitched the Philippines as the perfect investment destination to foreign companies.
He met with several business executives and presented the country as an ideal investment destination in Asia.
He emphasized the country’s improved business climate, fueled by economic policy reforms, that have made it easier to do business here.
For Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno, the President’s participation in the WEF has opened doors for “more intensive” partnerships that will help revitalize the economy.
He also pointed out that the administration’s infrastructure program will adopt the public-private partnership mechanism to encourage more investments on top of the government’s goal to spend at least 5 to 6 percent of GDP on infrastructure.
Amid the expected slowdown of the global economy, the Philippine economy is forecast to grow by around 6.5 percent in 2023, making this one of the highest if not the highest growth projection in the Asia-Pacific Region.
The country’s bustling manufacturing sector, record-low unemployment, and stable banking system can act as buffers against external headwinds, Diokno said, adding that these show very clearly that the country has a “resilient economy.”
Diokno gave assurances that the proposed sovereign wealth fund, once passed by the legislature, will support the goals laid down in the Philippine Development Plan 2023-2028 and will adhere to the highest standards of accountability and sound fiscal management.
In the end, what those who attended the five-day World Economic Forum in Davos are saying is that Philippine participation will pay huge dividends for the domestic economy in the next five-and-a half years that succeeding administrations can very well build upon.