The Philippine Star : BBM urged: Build on Duterte reforms

By Louise Maureen Simeon | The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — Amid uncertainties and lack of direction, the economy could still grow at around five to six percent yearly if presumptive president Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. would build on the reforms initiated by the Duterte administration, an analyst said.

During the Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines general membership meeting yesterday, the Foundation for Economic Freedom (FEF) said the incoming government is set to inherit a strong economic foundation.

During the campaign, Marcos failed to outline his economic plans if elected. More than a week since the elections, the presumptive president has yet to lay out his specific agenda for the economy.

This has worried investors and analysts who stress that such a plan is crucial for a government that must deal with mounting problems.

Marcos and his government are set to face high rates of unemployment, poverty incidence and food costs as well as inadequate public services, persistent insurgency, illegal drugs and other peace and order problems.

But economist and FEF president Calixto Chikiamco is choosing to be optimistic, especially with the presumption that Marcos will not deviate from the existing policies set forth by President Duterte.

“The economy under a Marcos presidency won’t be a disaster as some have predicted,” Chikiamco said.

“I am quite optimistic about the business environment in the next six years, especially with all the liberalization measures,” he said.

Given Marcos’ lack of an economic agenda, Chikiamco said one scenario could be that the next president would not do any substantial reforms, but would not reverse existing ones either.

This means that he would just continue the policies of the current administration.

“Such a scenario, with a strong economic foundation and Philippine geopolitical positions, are enough for a growth momentum of five to six percent annually,” Chikiamco said.

Geopolitics that may favor the Philippines include deglobalization and the demographic decline among Asian neighbors such as Thailand, South Korea, China, Japan and Taiwan, he said.

Chikiamco said reforms that Marcos could take advantage of for sustained growth include the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises Act, the Rice Tariffication Law and the flagship Build Build Build infrastructure program.

Other important reforms in place also include the executive orders on satellite broadband, lifting of mining permit and open-pit mining bans, economic liberalization measures and the Bangsamoro peace agreement.

On the other hand, Chikiamco said a more optimistic scenario could pave the way for a more robust and sustainable growth at around eight to 10 percent per year.

Chikiamco warned that corruption may persist and access capitalism may continue, but he maintained that these would not affect the overall positive trajectory of the Philippine economy.

“Dictatorship and corruption in the 1970s arose from an inefficient, protected, inward-looking economy. The economy now is more open and tied to international markets,” he said.