EconomyEditor's PickMarcos claims PHL tagged as part of Asia’s ‘VIP Club’ in WEF

January 22, 2023
PRESIDENT R. Marcos, Jr. in World Economic Forum (WEF) — OPS PHOTO

PRESIDENT Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. at the weekend touted that global business and political leaders have tagged the Philippines as part of a so-called “VIP Club” of Asia due to its economic performance, which the government hopes would translate to more foreign investments. 

The Philippines’ participation in the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland last week served as an “excellent platform to showcase the Philippine economy’s strong performance,” Mr. Marcos was quoted as saying in a press release by the Presidential Communications Office (PCO). 

“It’s good that we came here (in Davos, Switzerland) because by coming here, we have been included in what they call the VIP Club,” he said in Filipino. “The VIP Club is composed of Vietnam, Indonesia, and the Philippines.” 

“They said these countries have the best economy in Asia.” 

Think tank Ibon Foundation, however, expressed dismay at the Palace’s bullish claims about the Philippine economy, saying “facts show that last year was a tough one for poor and middle-class Filipinos.” 

The Philippines faces growth risks from elevated inflation, rising borrowing costs and a global recession. The World Bank expects the economy to slow to 5.4% this year from an estimated 7.2% last year. 

The government has lowered its growth target this year to 6% to 7% from 6.5%-7.5%. Inflation hit 8.1% in December, the fastest since November 2008. 

“The economic managers have failed to meet their growth targets for five years now with only eleventh-hour estimates coming anywhere close,” IBON said. “If their usual overestimates are any guide — and generously ignoring how wildly growth was in 2020 — it is more likely that growth this year will be around 5% or even less.” 

IBON maintained that the relatively rapid growth last year is a “misleading indicator of the economy’s trajectory,” noting that it was just “a rebound from reopening and there was a statistical boost from being measured against the low base of an economy pressed down by lockdowns.”  

Leonardo A. Lanzona, who teaches economics at the Ateneo, also noted that the WEF — organized by a foundation advocating for public-private cooperation — “is perceived as an elitist group.”  

“The WEF is a collection of super rich entities formed to avoid taxes. In the face of prevailing gut problems, persistent inequality and rising poverty, the active participation of the Philippine government only crystallizes the anti-poor character of the policies advocated by this administration,” Mr. Lanzona said in a Facebook Messenger chat.

“The poor farmer has more to contribute to the country’s development than all the tycoons who were part of this delegation,” he said.  

The President met with global leaders at the Davos conference, “with several foreign investors expressing intent to explore business opportunities in the Philippines,” the PCO said in the media release.  

Earlier, the Palace said Mr. Marcos had secured commitments from at least two foreign companies during his Switzerland trip.   

But investment analysts were unimpressed, saying the supposed commitments were insignificant and could be had without a foreign trip.

Mr. Marcos met with WEF Founder and Chairman Emeritus Klaus Schwab and “discussed partnerships and collaboration to help the Philippines sustain equitable and inclusive growth and provide a better quality of life for Filipinos,” the PCO said in the Sunday release.  

It added that the Philippine leader also had the opportunity to exchange views with World Trade Organization Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, World Bank Managing Director for Operations Axel Van Trotsenburg, International Monetary Fund Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva, and former United Kingdom Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Mr. Marcos, 65, arrived in Switzerland on Jan. 15 and returned to the Philippines on Saturday.

In his arrival speech, the President said his WEF engagement gave the Philippines a chance to inform various sectors that the country “is leading economic recovery and performance not only in the Asia-Pacific but also in the whole world.” 

Mr. Marcos’ claim has been backed by House legislator Jose Maria Clemente S. Salceda, who said in a Sunday statement that “absolutely there will be no recession for the Philippines in 2023.”  

“We will be in positive growth territory regardless of what happens for the rest of the world,” he claimed. “We have removed restrictions on so many key sectors – public services, the retail trade sector, the energy sector – that the country will offset global recessionary forces.”  

Last week, the Palace said New York-based investment firm Morgan Stanley & Co. LLC would set up an office in Manila to support the government’s development agenda. 

It added that Emirati logistics company DP World, which is already operating in the Philippines, seeks to set up an industrial park in Clarkfield, Pampanga province north of the Philippine capital.

Terry L. Ridon, a public investment analyst, told BusinessWorld at the time that Morgan Stanley’s commitment “does not constitute a commitment to undertake foreign direct investment in the Philippines.  

DP World, the logistics company, is “already well-established in the country, operating ports in Manila and Batangas province,” he added. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza 

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