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Overcoming Decades of Missed FDI in the Philippines

December 4, 2017 • On Duterte and the Philippines

By Dan Steinbock

Since the 1980s, economic success in Asia has often relied on foreign investment, at least initially. Last week, President Duterte took a decisive step toward that direction. Why has the change taken so long? And why is the devil in the details?

 

In the third quarter, the Philippine economy grew 6.9%, which made it Asia’s second fastest-growing economy after Vietnam. But unlike Vietnam, which has reaped many benefits of foreign direct investment (FDI), the Philippines has not.

Again and again, former President Benigno Aquino III acknowledged the need to boost FDI during his reign. Yet, the main challenge to attract FDI has been the 60/40 foreign ownership law, which Aquino neglected to confront between 2010 and 2016.

On November 21, President Duterte ordered the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) to take “immediate steps” to lift or ease restrictions on foreign direct investment (FDI) in the Philippines to foster economic growth.

With this directive, the foreign investment negative list is expected to be cut by half. The goal is to “raise the Philippines’ competitiveness, and to foster higher economic growth in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) region and beyond.”

As I have argued for years – on the basis of my work in competitiveness, innovation and FDI in several continents – a change is desperately needed in the Philippines. And it is about three decades late.

 
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About the Author

Dr. Dan Steinbock is Guest Fellow of Shanghai Institutes for International Studies (SIIS), see http://en.siis.org.cn/. The commentary is part of his SIIS project “China in the Era of Economic Uncertainty and Geopolitical Risk”. For his global advisory activities and other affiliations in the US and Europe, see http://www.differencegroup.net/

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