Ex-Finance chief, experts stress need to amend economic provisions

Ex-Finance chief, experts stress need to amend economic provisions
Image from Ping Lacson website

EXPERTS from various sectors stressed the need to ease economic restrictions in the Constitution to bring in foreign investments, lower the costs of goods and services, and create jobs.

They made the statement during a consultative session on charter change on Wednesday, April 4, 2024, organized by Democracy Watch Philippines, an organization supported by Stratbase Institute.

Former Finance secretary Gary Teves said the influx of foreign direct investments will create much-needed competition in the country.

Teves believes competition will address the major concerns of Filipinos based on a recent Pulse Asia survey, which includes inflation, jobs, and wages.

“Investors generally will look at the prices of goods and services and how Filipino consumers can afford the prices of goods that they will be selling,” he said.

“So, since wages do not adjust automatically or that quickly, one way of helping this is through competition, which foreign investors can provide in relation to our existing manufacturers,” Teves added.

Similarly, TradeAdvisors CEO Tony Abad explained that competition “creates a dynamic pressure on locals to improve themselves.”

Meanwhile, Canadian Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines President Julian Payne has no doubt FDIs would create more jobs -- the quality of which will depend on the industries.

“Is it a net increase in jobs or are the jobs displacing other local jobs?” Payne asked.

“In other cases, if it's a new industry or a new product or a new service, it will be additional,” he said.

Even retired Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio believes adding the phrase “unless otherwise provided by law” to economic provisions will benefit the economy — but stressed it should be “subject to reciprocity.”

“We will allow only investors from a country that also allows us to invest in their advertising industry. That's the meaning of unless otherwise provided [with reciprocity],” Carpio said.

Advertising is among the industries the Resolution of Both Houses No. 7 aims to open up, along with the public service sector, basic education, and media. The House of Representatives approved the proposal in March. A counterpart measure is pending in the Senate.

On concerns that now is not the time for charter change, Abad said, “There’s a saying that if you wait until you’re ready… you will never be ready.”

What the country needs now is a Constitution that will “adjust to this global economy,” Abad added.

“Capital actually has no nationality. Capital is just capital. That is the pragmatism and practicality that all the other Asian countries can see,” he said.

Teves urges government to “get all these restrictive economic provisions out of the Constitution and let Congress use its power to impose appropriate limitations, restrictions, conditions for ownership, safety nets, security reasons, reciprocity agreements, if you like. All of those things can be done by Congress.”

On fears that politicians would take advantage of the process, Foundation

for Economic Freedom lead economist Cha Ubarra said that this is why the public, especially the youth, should “own your power” and participate in discussions related to policies.

“The Constitution we have in place right now was put together before you were born. What you are working so hard to protect did not have you in mind when it was put together. Take your power, create a Constitution, create a foundation law that is suited to your realities,” Ubarra said. (PR)


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