RP Competitiveness Remains Major Issue Despite Typhoons

DESPITE the destruction and flooding caused by typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng, the government must remember that competitiveness is one of the most pressing issues in the Philippines today.

Representatives from academe and private sector highlight the importance of instituting reforms that seek to improve the country’s competitiveness even before the May 2010 polls through the project Improving Philippine Competitiveness Through Policy of Economic Reforms.

The project is funded by a £30,000 grant from the British Embassy in Manila. The project will be implemented by the University of the Philippines Open University until March 31, 2010.

One of the major aims of the project is to present the next Congress with recommendations that could steer competitiveness reforms beyond 2010 through legislation and policy actions.

“It is essential that the handover from one administration to the next should not lead to a loss of momentum in terms of economic and social reform. That is why this project is intended to provide a continuing forum for consultations and discussions about reforms needed before and after the upcoming elections, in order to improve the country’s competitiveness,” British Ambassador to the Philippines Stephen Lillie said during the launch of the project in Quezon City on Tuesday.

Asian Institute of Management Policy Center executive director Dr. Ma. Lourdes Sereno said the country’s competitiveness has worsened based on the results of the 2009 World Competitiveness Yearbook released by the Institute for Management Development.

The report showed that the country’s rank declined to 54th among 57 countries. The ranking was determined based on 330 indicators grouped into four factors—government performance, business efficiency, infrastructure and labor productivity.

Among the indicators, the country received the lowest in basic infrastructure, which ranked the Philippines at 57th place; international investment and scientific infrastructure, 56th; public finance and education, 54th; productivity and efficiency, 53rd; health and environment, 48th; and institutional framework, 42nd.

The only indicators where the country ranked in the top 20 of the survey were labor market where the Philippines ranked fifth; fiscal policy, 13th; and prices, 14th. 

“My hypothesis is, if we [improve] the [areas where the country posted] poor rankings, then maybe we won’t be in number 53,” Sereno said during her presentation.

Federation of Philippine Industries chairman Meneleo Carlos Jr. said one of the legislative changes that should be implemented includes the relegislation of all presidential decrees (PD) enforced during the martial law era.

Carlos said that to date, there are still many martial law PDs enforced, such as PD 857 which created the Philippine Ports Authority. He said this PD gave way to the building of various ports around the country, including those that “remain of little use” such as Port Irene in Cagayan.

He added that there is also a need to ensure that competitive bidding continues with the assurance that firms will be undertaking it with “eyes wide open.” Carlos said there is also a need for the government to subscribe to market forces to encourage more investors to put up businesses.

Further, National Competitiveness Council cochairman and former ambassador to the United Kingdom Cesar Bautista said there is a need for the government to further reforms that would grow sunrise industries or the industries where the Philippines has a competitive advantage.

These eight sunrise industries, Bautista said, could easily create an additional $80 billion to $90 billion worth of revenues for the country. These eight sunrise industries are tourism, business-process outsourcing, electronics, health, wellness and retirement, supply chain, agribusiness, mining and vehicle manufacturing. (C. Ordinario) - BusinessMirror