18 April 2016- Amb. Antonio A. Morales was the Guest Speaker at a Round Table Discussion held at the Law Offices of Duane Morris & Selvam LLP on 14 April 2016. Amb. Morales spoke on the Philippine economy, its prospects and economic outlook, as well as emerging opportunties and key developments, before a group of about forty (40) participants who were mostly lawyers and business consultants.
In his talk entitled, “Philippine Economic Outlook: Can the Philippines remain among East Asia’s fastest growing economies?”, Amb. Morales discussed the unprecendented high growth trajectory of the Philippine economy and noted “that this consistent growth under the current administration has not been seen in the past four decades and is not due to unsustainable borrowing as in the 1970s nor by short-lived portfolio capital”. Quoting former Economic Planning Secretary Arsenio M. Balisacan, he added that “Among the major developing countries in 2015, the Philippines will likely be among the fastest in Asia, next to India, the People’s Republic of China, and Vietnam.”
Amb. Morales noted that the high growth pattern can be attributed partly to the structural changes taking place on both the demand and supply side of the economy, enabling a shift from sectors with low productivity such as agriculture to those with high productivity such as industry and services.
Amb. Morales also mentioned key developments in the economy, including improvements in the ranking of the Philippines in the Ease of Doing Business Report of the World Bank and the Global Competiveness Report of the World Economic Forum, and its position compared to its ASEAN neighbours. The “investment grade” rating by the major international credit rating outfits-Moody’s, Standard and Poor’s and Fitch-was also as an indication of the unprecedented level of confidence from the international business community, he added. International organizations like the IMF-World Bank continue to be optimistic about the prospects of the Philippines.
Because of the growing Philippine market of at least 101 million, the very young working population, coupled with the major reforms implemented by the current administration to curb corruption, he announced that the Philippines attracted a total of foreign direct investments of 5.724 Billion USD in 2015, 31.86 percent higher compared to figures in 2013. Some foreign companies have been bullish on the Philippines as an investment location. For example, Toyota Japan has announced that it will infuse US$ 50 Million into the Philippines while the French call center operator Teleperformance has created at least 42,000 jobs and plans to further infuse money into the country.
Amb. Morales ended his presentation by inviting the participants to visit the Philippines, to feel the pulse of the place and see for themselves that indeed, “it is more fun in the Philippines.”
During the Open Forum, Amb. Morales was asked the question: what are the top three (3) areas in the economic relations between the Philippines and Singapore that he wants to see strengthened. Amb. Morales replied that first, he wants to see Tourism cooperation enhanced. He recalled that in a tourism event held in Singapore in 2014, the Philippine Secretary of Tourism Ramon Jimenez mentioned the notion of “coopetition”-that Changi Airport, being a transport hub in Asia, could be the Philippines best airport, while Boracay Island could be Singapore’s best beach. Second, he said he wants to see more Singaporean companies investing in Infrastructure projects through Public Private Partnerships with local counterparts and last, he wants to see more trade numbers increase between the countries.