Phl needs to open up economy – think tank

Kathleen A. Martin - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - US-based think-tank The Heritage Foundation said the Philippines would need to open up the economy to more players and continue its structural reforms to increase investments.

Terry Miller, executive director of the organization, said in a briefing yesterday the government should consider altering some rules on trade and investments to better cater to a bigger group of investors.

Miller said that some policies only protect a number of businesses or some sectors, holding back economic development and investments, and in turn, the creation of jobs.

“They tend to preserve the benefits to perhaps only an elite group in the society. Maybe if you can open up the economy, then much more opportunity will be available for average people. Policy changes can make significant changes,” Miller said.

The Philippines improved its ranking in the latest Index of Economic Freedom published by The Heritage Foundation to 76 out of 178 countries from rank 89 last year. The country scored 62.2 points, above the world average of 60.4 points. This put the country in the survey’s “moderately free” category.

The index divides the countries surveyed into those that are free, mostly free, moderately free, mostly unfree, and repressed. The countries are assessed on their rule of law or property rights and freedom from corruption, limited government which pertains to fiscal freedom and government spending, regulatory efficiency, and open markets wherein financial freedom lies.

Miller said the country has rosy prospects for further improving its economic freedom given the reforms being instituted by the government and its sound macroeconomic fundamentals. “It’s only a question of political will,” he said.

Anthony Kim, senior analyst at the Heritage Foundation, said during the same briefing the reforms should be sustained even with the change of government officials following the 2016 presidential elections.

“The momentum is here... This is the time to do more and not less... We do know that it’s not going to take one night or one year and it’s an ongoing process but what matters is what process and how you’re going to drive that reform process,” Kim said.

Corruption has been tagged as among the more serious cause of concerns for the Philippines in the 2015 Index of Economic Freedom but Kim said the efforts to reduce it is a welcome development.

 “The current administration has been putting strong efforts to fight corruption and we want to see that continue,” Kim said, adding the government should also improve the workers’ productivity in terms of training, for example.

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