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Thursday, August 22, 2019

Roperos: Troubled economy

A BASIC and common economic concern among the nations is how to market their products to each other. They call it “export marketing.” This notion struck me recently when I read a report in this newspaper about the threat faced by the Seaweed Industry of the Philippines (SIAP), which produces and exports carageenan as food additive.

The Visayas and Mindanao have long been known as seaweed producing areas of the country. Carageenan is a seaweed extract used “in the manufacture of toothpaste, ice cream, cosmetic cream, some dairy products, shampoo, and even in processed meats to facilitate water binding.” It is one of our “export revenue earners,” getting us “$150 million in export value year-on-year.”

The carageenan industry has given livelihood to an estimated 200,000 families through the years “of which 90 percent are seaweed farmers.” Now an American scientist is seeking to stop the sale of the carageenan extract due to its questionable “health benefits.” The SIAP, immediately got the support of the Export Development Council.

But this is just an instance of the problems our country is facing. It is said that in “a bid to boost the country’s global (export products) competitiveness ranking and improve the business climate in ther country, President Benigno Aquino III has signed an administrative order for the creation of an inter-agency task force that will implement reforms to make it easier to do business (here).

The Ease on Doing Business Task Force (EODB) is designed to help implement an action plan drafted by the National Competitive Council (NCC) to enhance the country‘s “business competitiveness.” It is seen to significantly help improve our ranking in a World Bank survey where we rank 138 out of 185 countries in the world.

This situation, when taken together with the threat faced by SIAP on our carageenan extract export becomes a genuine economic problem to the Philippines. Indeed, the Game plan for Competitiveness is a strategy that sets reform targets for the concerned government agencies on ten indicators. It also identifies areas where private and public participations could be most effective to improve our country’s business competitiveness ranking.

The IFC indicators measures and tracks business regulations such as starting businesses, dealing with construction permits, getting electricity, registering property, getting credit, protecting investors, paying taxes, trading across borders, enforcing contracts, and resolving insolvency. Under the Presidential order, the task force will composed of government agencies that even include the Philippine Health Insurance Corp.

It appears that the President really meant to help improve the nation’s business climate.
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