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Opinion

EDITORIAL - Lining up

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The Philippines is no longer “a horror story” and prospective investors are “lining up” to do business in the country, President Aquino said yesterday upon his return from the United States. He will rest briefly in Manila before flying to Japan for an official visit.

In New York and Washington, the President received official commendations for good governance reforms being undertaken by his administration. In Japan, he may need to make a stronger pitch for investments. Briefing journalists in Manila on the forthcoming visit, Japanese Ambassador Toshinao Urabe said businessmen in his country were looking at new investment destinations in Southeast Asia but were bypassing the Philippines.

With economic woes in the United States and Europe and traditional Asian markets already saturated, Japanese businessmen were considering Southeast Asian countries for investments, Urabe said. But red tape, high electricity costs, institutional weaknesses and even the traffic mess kept the Philippines out of the radar of Japanese businessmen, the ambassador said.

If those problems sound familiar, it’s because they are the same complaints aired by investors who are already doing business in the Philippines. Foreign investors now “lining up” for a look at the country are bound to see the same problems. And like the Japanese, they might look at neighboring countries and bypass the Philippines, unless the Aquino administration does something quickly to address most of the concerns.

The President’s emphasis on good governance reforms and public perceptions of his personal integrity have kept business confidence high in his first year in office. His campaign against corruption is expected to include cutting red tape. The country’s poor rating in international surveys on ease of doing business shows that more needs to be done in this area.

Institutional weaknesses will take time to correct, and some may need constitutional amendments or action by other branches of government. But other concerns raised by businessmen, including high electricity costs and traffic, can be addressed by the executive. If prospective investors are lining up for a look at Philippine investment prospects, the President should make sure they will like what they see and put their money in the country.

AQUINO

COUNTRY

IN JAPAN

IN NEW YORK AND WASHINGTON

JAPANESE AMBASSADOR TOSHINAO URABE

PRESIDENT AQUINO

SOUTHEAST ASIA

SOUTHEAST ASIAN

UNITED STATES

UNITED STATES AND EUROPE

URABE

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