Progress under Aquino but more reforms needed – foreign bizmen

MANILA, Philippines – The Aquino administration posted improvements in the reforms sought by the largest coalition of foreign investors in the country, but  economic growth under its watch has yet to make a dent on unemployment and underemployment. 

The Joint Foreign Chambers of the Philippines (JFC), unveiling a progress report at the 5th Arangkada Assessment Forum on Tuesday, March 1, said 74.5% or 333 of 471 its rated recommendations were "active or moving," inching up from the 74.22% (331) in 2014.

Twenty-five percent or 114 concerns were rated as "dormant." (READ: Business groups to next president: Grow GDP, FDIs)

The JFC's "Arangkada" initiative identifies reforms needed for 7 "big winner" sectors: agribusiness; information technology and business process outsourcing (BPO); creative industries; infrastructure; manufacturing and logistics; mining; and tourism, medical travel, and retirement.

Arangkada is Filipino for "accelerate."

According to JFC, the the National Competitiveness Council is focusing on the weakest areas, but there's a danger of backsliding under a different leadership.

Top concerns, such as corruption, infrastructure, and education, are being addressed, but "could regress under a different national leadership," John Forbes, American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines (AmCham) senior adviser, told reporters in a briefing in Pasay City on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, BPO, infrastructure, manufacturing, and tourism were identified as sectors where progress has been made in policy and economic reforms.

Forbes told a press briefing that measures had been made in legislation, environment, business resiliency, governance, labor, macroeconomic policy, and health, which "enable a more competitive business environment."

"The fiscal policy of the country is also very good. K to 12 is the major change. There's a little bit of turnaround in tourism and mining," Julian Payne, Canadian Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines (CanCham) President, said in a forum.

With the forum theme,  "Bolder and More Inclusive Decade," the JFC highlighted the need for the Philippine government to initiate bolder measures that will transform the Philippine economy in the next decade.

Forbes said these include hiking gross domestic product growth to 9% and increasing annual foreign direct investments to over $10 billion.

But JFC said a number of binding constraints still remain, deterring the country's track to achieving inclusive growth.

Sectors that need to be strengthened