Europe-PH News

Bold Steps Sought Amid Volatile Conditions in Export Marts

January 16, 2012

Eliza J. Diaz

Europe-PH News

Last year the Philippines mediocre economic quarter growth -- at 3.6% asof the third quarter -- was seen as stemming from government's hesitation to spend finances and pursue infrastructure projects.

The decline in electronics exports which posted a -4.3% decline for January to October, could also be traced to an even longer period of being too reliant on one industry, electronics.

This year, as the world economy continues to grapple with the volatilities of the euro zone crisis, business executives in the country have advised the government to be bold.

"I'm confident that [economic] growth [this] year will be more than 5% but to do that. we need more than just public spending.  Investors must invest," John D. Forbes, American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines (AmCham) legislative committee chairman, said in a telephone interview.

"There is much more to be done by the DTI (Department of Trade and Industry) and DoT (Department of Tourism) for marketing abroad.  Impresssions of the Philippines abroad is negative.  Those who are here are happy, but getting them to come here is a challenge," he continued.

This way, investments can create jobs and thus improve the domestic market's purchasing power, something key to withstanding crises in the West.

"You can create jobs through investments.  I think sending more people abroad is a cop out, because you can't build a domestic market without creating jobs," Mr. Forbes explained.

These investments, however, should go beyond the typical electronics and semiconductor sector for goods and manufacturing and business process outsourcing for services.

"I wish someone would take a serious look in bringing in furniture manufacturing," the American official pointed out as an example.

The Philippines can create a niche in the market away from mass-produced consumer goods by focusing on innovation, creativity, and quality, Hubert D' Aboville, European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines (ECCP) president said in a separate telephone interview.

"We, in Europe, are very much art-oriented.  Art is a very important component of our lives and history.  Filipinos, on the other hand, are very artistic so I am sure there is a bridge between the two that should be bridged in terms of art and exports," Mr. D'Aboville said.

"One of the assets of the Philippines is creativity.  We should use these talents to create new products.  We are blessed in this area, so we should create and created then export," he continued, noting the need to focus on aesthetics, also for jewelry, decor, handicrafts, and other luxury items as well.

Another big challenge, Mr. Forbes noted, is mining.  While the Philippines has some of the world's richest mineral deposits, the political tensions among civil society, national government, and local government units (LGU) have stifled the sector's advancement.

"Mining has big potential but there is no consensus... in supporting responsible mining and opposing the irresponsible kind.  There doesn't seem to be an effort in making the distinction between the two and it doesn't contribute to a healthy policy dialogue," Mr. Forbes said.

 

Source: Business World; Special Feature; 12 January 2012

 

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