Marcos to seek out potential infra, agri investors at Davos

PRESIDENT Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. said he will seek out potential partners for his agriculture and infrastructure development plans at the Davos conference in Switzerland.

In his pre-departure speech, Mr. Marcos added that he will pitch potential locators on the Philippines’ readiness to receive multinationals seeking to expand their operations in Asia.

“I will draw attention to our efforts at building resilient infrastructure that bolsters our effort to reinforce robust and resilient supply chains, ensures food security, including critical interlinkages with the health and nutrition sectors, while furthering climate-friendly, clean, and green energy to power the Philippine economy,” he said.

Mr. Marcos flew to Switzerland Sunday en route to the World Economic Forum (WEF), which takes place on Jan. 16-20 at the Swiss mountain resort.

Mr. Marcos said he plans to position the Philippines as “a gateway to the Asia-Pacific region.”

The Philippines is “open for business — ever ready to complement regional and global expansion plans of both foreign and Philippine-based enterprises anchored on the competent and well-educated Filipino workers, managers, and professionals,” he said.

“Moreover, I will share our experience as a model for managing — with our global partners — the disruptive and transformative impact of COVID.”

Mr. Marcos will be traveling with a delegation of economic managers and business leaders.

His appearance at Davos needs to be viewed as a reputation-building exercise rather than a realistic play for investment, Terry L. Ridon, a public investment analyst, said via chat.

“Let us not kid ourselves: the President’s attendance at the WEF will only serve to burnish his international reputation without certainty of actual results in terms of investment commitments.”

“It is no UN General Assembly nor APEC Summit, in which bilateral and multilateral meetings result in real investment and political commitments to the country.”

“European commitments to the Philippines should have already been made during the Brussels trip,” Mr. Ridon said. “And there is no beating around it: the WEF trip is mainly for the President’s international prestige, nothing more.”

Renato E. Reside, Jr., an associate professor at the University of the Philippines School of Economics, said the success of the Switzerland trip will depend on the President’s “ability to sell our country to world leaders and investors.”

“The success of his trip to Davos depends on whether he can inspire enough confidence in our economy,” he said via chat. “Pledges of investment bear fruit only if real fixed capital investment comes into the economy afterwards, so some follow-up may still need to be done even after the trip.”

“Investments perk up aggregate demand and stimulate employment as well, so there are definitely gains that can be made,” he added.

Mr. Reside noted that the Philippines needs more investment in infrastructure, agriculture, manufacturing, power and services.

“We also need to upgrade our airports,” he said, noting that the government has yet to harness the potential of a 2021 law that opened parts of the economy to full foreign ownership.

“The passing of the Public Service Act is a step in the right direction, but the President still has work to do to translate that into actual investment.”

Michael L. Ricafort, chief economist at Rizal Commercial Banking Corp., said Davos is “a good opportunity for the government to make a sales pitch to help attract more foreign investment that creates more jobs.”

It will also give the Philippines a chance to diversify its exports, engage more countries that may need overseas Filipino workers, and obtain more multilateral funding for key projects.

“The key areas that investors should look at include the energy, manufacturing, agriculture, and outsourcing sectors,” Mr. Ricafort said.

The Philippines has lowered its economic growth target for 2023 to 6.0%-7.0% from 6.5%-7.5%. Inflation in December was 8.1%, the highest since November 2008. Year-earlier inflation was 3.1%.

Mr. Marcos is expected to visit Japan in mid-February. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza