“Read the roadmap.”
This was Austen Chamberlain’s reply when asked about any unsolicited advice for President Noynoy. Chamberlain is on his second term as president of the American Chamber of Commerce (Amcham).
The Roadmap he refers to is an advocacy recommendation of the Amcham entitled, “Roadmap to More Foreign Investments.” It was first released in 2003 and later updated in 2004.
According to Chamberlain, the latest Roadmap, which is still a draft and being completed, is a joint effort of the Joint Foreign Chambers of the Philippines (JFC) but it encompasses the “7 Big Winners: High Growth Sectors for Investment and Jobs.” The Roadmap itself covers the entire investment climate but features the “7 big winners” as well. It will be recalled that the JFC presented the latter during a briefing attended by representatives from the Philippine government, private sector, international organizations, academe, think tanks, business groups and media last April 12 in Makati. It forecasts $75 billion in foreign direct investments (FDI) and 10 million jobs from 2010-2020 if the government follows its headline recommendations. Apparently, this recommendation for investment climate reform by the JFC was presented to the previous administration. JFC plans to resubmit it to Aquino this time.
The Seven Big Winners are 1) agribusiness, 2) business process outsourcing (BPO), 3) creative industries, 4) infrastructure: airports and seaports, power and water, road and rail, 5) manufacturing & logistics 6) mining, and 7) tourism (including medical travel and retirement).
The 2006 Roadmap, on the other hand, included six broad areas for reform: 1) Infrastructure, 2) Governance, 3) Population Growth, 4) Legislative Reform, 5) English, and 6) Security.
For Infrastructure, the previous concerns centered on the Philippines not investing sufficiently on it compared to the $3+ billion needed each year. Foreign investors were particularly concerned about the poor conditions of most air, land and marine transport infrastructure. Four years ago, they already foresaw the high cost and expected shortages of electric power and the inadequate supply of quality water. Since only the private sector can finance, build and operate most of the needed infrastructure, a more attractive contractual, financing and operating environment is essential.
It is good to know, however, that not all recommendations fell on deaf ears as the need to accelerate the privatization of NPC and Napocor was heeded.
We will tackle the other areas for reform in succeeding columns in greater detail while we haggle for an advance copy of the 2010 Roadmap which will be submitted to President Noynoy.
Chamberlain is upbeat about their latest roadmap and it would be interesting to see what it contains.
I have a feeling it includes the creation of a Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT), the need to seriously clamp down on corruption and smuggling, having a legal system that works, and the need for a level playing field.
Some may feel that it will be extremely difficult to comply with the JFC recommendations but Chamberlain believes that all it takes is just political will if we really want to achieve exponential growth in FDIs from the present $1 billion to a whopping $10 billion a year.
It now depends on how the new administration will treat it – will they value it as a roadmap … or, take it for granted as just a wishlist?