An renowned economist emphasized during a virtual forum that the Philippines should abandon its “Filipino First” strategy and further open the economy to foreign investment to aid recovery.
One of the framers of the 1987 Philippine Constitution, Bernardo Villegas, believes that “Filipino First” is not the best strategy, particularly in today’s world where countries compete for foreign investment.
He is of the view that now is the best time to loosen the Constitution’s restrictive economic provisions because the government is over-borrowed and requires additional capital to invest in projects that will help to boost the economy, which is still in recession due to the effects of the coronavirus disease pandemic in 2019.
It should be noted that as of end-March this year, the national government’s outstanding debt totaled P10.77 trillion. The debt-to-gross domestic product (GDP) ratio, which measures the proportion of the country’s debt against the overall economy, reached a 14-year high of 54.5 percent in 2020.
“Our debt to GDP ratio is already inching towards maximum 50-70 percent. And therefore, we don’t have enough local capital to continue our Build, Build, Build [infrastructure program], especially in the area of transport, and telecommunications which are so vital to our bouncing back,” Villegas said.
“And there’s a proof that if we want to attract a lot of foreign investments in all the big airports that we have, to improve [them] over the next five to 10 years, we have to open up these investments for foreigners,” he added.
Aside from these industries, Villegas said that strategic industries such as media and educational institutions, which need long-term capital, require more foreign investment.
“There’s no longer any separation between telecom, media, and IT (information technology). They are all now in one converged industry. And I also mentioned that we have an educational crisis. And the government has to focus all of its efforts in improving basic education, which as you know is the worst in Asia.”
According to the latest data from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, foreign direct investments that are job-generating inflows totaled $1.6 billion in the first two months of the year.