Foreign business leaders are bullish on their outlook for the Philippine economy this year as they expect foreign direct investment (FDI) levels soaring to new highs.
Economic expansion is likely to continue this year, thereby sustaining investor confidence and keeping the country an attractive investment destination, according to foreign business leaders polled by The STAR.
"FDI should remain at its new level since 2015 above $6 billion, but may surprise us by reaching $10 billion," American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines senior advisor John Forbes said.
"The President's Memorandum Order 16, instructing agencies to reduce restrictions on foreign investment in eight areas, when implemented by passing laws reducing restrictions and, in due course, amending the constitutional restrictions on foreign equity could attract many billions of dollars in new investment," Forbes added.
European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines president Guenter Taus pointed out that government actively acting upon the memorandum order would have a substantial effect on the Philippine economy as it would "open the floodgates to investors who see the high potential and wealth of opportunities in the Philippines."
"The Philippines has done well in 2017 to match the very high level (of FDI) seen in 2016, and it could well be exceeded in 2018 if the soon-to-be-published Foreign Investment Negative List will really open up certain sectors for higher foreign participants, as indicated in statements from the administration," Nordic Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines Inc. president Bo Lundqvist said.
Latest figures from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) showed FDI inflow target for 2017 to $8 billion from an initial $7 billion after FDIs reached a record high $7.9 billion in 2016.
"We expect continued strong economic growth in 2018, hopefully moving above seven percent," Forbes said.
"It is realistic to expect a GDP (gross domestic product) growth of seven percent in 2018. This may increase if the planned infrastructure spending is executed according to plans, and if the tax reform is implemented as planned, giving almost all income earners a higher disposable income for spending," Lundqvist added.
For this year, the business leaders said investors have set their sights on the government's Build Build Build initiative.
Lundqvist said the lack of proper core infrastructure is the biggest challenge to the country's continued growth, as the Philippines continues to lag behind its Asian neighbors in this area.
He said the proposed Build Build Build plan should be able to address key areas of infrastructure "if implemented on time, as planned, and in a transparent and fair conduct."
For Forbes, 2018 should bethe year to start many major infrastructure projects for new bridges, toll roads, rail lines, water projects, telecommuni cations and airports.
"We are very supportiveof the administration's Build Build Build initiatives. What we would like to see now is a clear roadmap of the projects under this program and the next steps that need to be taken in order to get things going. Specifically, we need to see a clear plan to really show potential investors that, not only is there political will to get the Philippines on the right track, but there are already steps taken and a solid plan moving forward," Taus added.
This article was originally published on January 23, 2018 on The Philippine Star (print)