What has happened since Lee Kuan Yew advised PH 30 years ago?
(Exclusive bonus! Rare video of Lee Kuan Yew’s visit to the Philippines in 1992…at the end of the article!)
LEE Kuan Yew in the 1990s predicted that we would fall behind Malaysia and Thailand and encouraged us to open up to competition to join the ranks of the newly industrialized countries. Today, we account for half of Thailand and a third of Malaysia’s gross domestic product (GDP) per capita, having recently fallen behind Indonesia and Vietnam.
For foreign investment restriction, we are currently ranked the third most restrictive country out of 83, according to an OECD study, cited by Foreign and Local Chambers of Commerce and Commerce Secretary Ramon Lopez. Senate Bill (SB) 2094 seeks to amend the Civil Service Act, opening additional public service sectors to foreign investment. What are the recent experiences of foreign investment in large public services?
Worst airport in the world? Since Megawide partnered with GMR Infrastructure in India, our airports have been built on time with international awards, creating a huge increase in tourist numbers in Cebu and Clark opening soon. Since the National Grid Corp. of the Philippines, in partnership with China’s state-owned enterprise (SOE), took over, brownouts became a thing of the past. The Malaysian capital helped build our first successes on elevated highways. Since we took over the maintenance of our rails from the Japanese, we have had several major breakdowns. We lost the planned $500 million petrochemical plant in Bataan about 30 years ago, and Hong Kong’s Li Kashing, who ran the world’s second-largest port volume at the time, won the Port of Subic twice but lost twice after winning. So we lost the cargo volume from Hong Kong that he said he would bring to the Philippines.
Former President Fidel V. Ramos, President Rodrigo Duterte, Senators Mary Grace Poe, Juan Miguel Zubiri and Ma. Imelda Josefa ‘Imee’ Marcos and former Prime Minister of Singapore Lee Kwan Yew.
It is not the Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) itself that we are looking for, but the positive effects it can bring to a more progressive Philippines. Full utilization to succeed requires key factors including culture, proficiency in math and reading comprehension, and smart working. We must design and implement not only government laws, but also finance, technology and international markets to create progress. The improved digital infrastructure should not be used for entertainment and games, but mainly for studies. not just for consumption. We need lower energy costs and more skilled logistics practitioners. Without this, we cannot protect ourselves against any foreign preponderance of the markets.
We have to realize that many foreign investments and influences are already there. Our telephone companies are capitalized by Indonesians and by the Singapore government SOE; the National Grid Corp. of the Philippines by the Chinese. The majority of our media content is now controlled from the US (i.e. Netflix, YouTube, Facebook and games) with the predominant use of our employees’ time averaging over 9 hours per day . But these foreign “partnerships” have also helped us transition to middle-income GDP.
Post-pandemic recovery must prioritize job creation, entrepreneurship and innovation, said Harry Roque Jr., one of our nation’s top constitutional and international law experts.
It is the Filipino people who benefit from competition in the public sector. SB 2094 seeks to modernize the outdated economic provisions of our Constitution in accordance with the changing times. The 1987 Constitution predated our membership of the World Trade Organization (WTO), which also obliges member states to liberalize trade, investment and services. The Supreme Court in Angara v. Tañada upheld the constitutionality of the WTO despite Philippine policy first in the Constitution, which essentially means the Court ruled that the liberalization of trade, investment and services contributes to our greater great national interest. Discriminatory policies such as discriminating against foreign state-owned companies will only be counterproductive to the spirit of attracting and capitalizing foreign investment, Roque added.
In order to achieve the ultimate development of the Philippines, we must work with all partners, local and foreign, who can help us with technologies and resources, market access that we do not have in the first place. If we had had these technologies and the capital, then there would have been no need for foreign cooperation,” recalled Roque, who is also a candidate for the Senate.
If we unite and improve the ease of doing business and attract more foreign investment, our economic recovery will continue and be resilient, said Dr. Henry Lim Bon Liong, President of the Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry Filipino-Chinese (FFCCII), predicting that the Philippines could reach 6.5% or higher economic growth in 2022 unless another variant emerges.
All of Asia’s most progressive economic success stories – from Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea, Thailand and Malaysia to socialist nations like new economic powerhouse China and our burgeoning competitor ASEAN, Vietnam – have thrived on welcoming and globally competitive foreign investment policies while also keen to absorb technologies and capabilities.
Currently, our other Southeast Asian neighbors have a larger share of FDI, and this fierce competition teaches us not to be complacent. A good businessman thrives on competition, recalled Harvard-educated industrialist Dr. Lim Bon Liong.
Amendments to the Public Utilities Act, which are among President Duterte’s legislative priorities, will only bring our foreign investment policies up to par with those of our neighbours. The wording of the amendment today showed that our legislators Franklin Drilon, Mary Grace Poe, Francis Pangilinan, Miguel Zubiri, Imee Marcos and Francis Tolentino have considered flexibility moving forward.
What we need to assess is the overall effect over time of our legislation and its correct implementation. We need a better process for finding and recruiting talent pools, empowering them to enter government, and the right incentives. Then, beyond relying on government or just foreign investment, we the people have to get to work. New inflows of capital and technology from abroad in critical infrastructure and the creation of new markets will accelerate the recovery and give our people a chance to prepare for the next, fourth stage of industrialization instead of languishing even behind our ASEAN neighbours.
Civil service law and foreign investment laws should be consistent and non-discriminatory, and recognized as evolving over time and adaptable as technologies, cultures and definitions of security change. Telecom operators are not as important as broadband access today. Global media such as CNN, Reuters, Netflix, YouTube and Facebook have reduced the role of national television and publications. Services have surpassed manufacturing in many countries, etc.
Together we need more economy and less politics and just focus on smart work.
Lee Kuan Yew’s advice for the progress of the Philippines goes back 30 years. Will we do better this time? Watch the rare images of Lee Kuan Yew on https://bit.ly/LKYph
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Lee Kuan Yew in the 1990s predicted that the Philippines would fall behind Malaysia and Thailand, and encouraged us to open ourselves up to competition to join the ranks. Today we are half of Thailand and a third of Malaysia’s GDP per capita, having recently fallen behind Indonesia and Vietnam (1992 PCCI Business Conference Manila)
Constitutionalist Harry Roque explains how the Philippines’ membership in international agreements like the WTO has helped our Constitution evolve for the greater national interest
Harvard-educated industrialist, entrepreneur, and civic leader, FFCCCII President Henry Lim Bon Liong shares the secrets that made countries like China and Vietnam go from a poor country to one of today’s most dynamic economies
Wharton-trained international trade practitioner and negotiator, IDSI Director George Siy explains the true value of foreign investment and other key factors in a progressive country
George Siy is a Wharton-trained international trade practitioner and negotiator, business leader and Chairman Emeritus of the Anvil Business Club. He has advised various Philippine government agencies and organizations in trade negotiations with ASEAN, Japan and the United States.
New Worlds by IDSI (Integrated Development Studies Institute) aims to present frameworks based on a balance between economic theory and historical realities, field success in real-world businesses and communities, and the attempt for the common good, culture and spirituality ([email protected])