Marcos: WEF’s poster boy for growth

Quiet strength Amid numerous ‘more immune and more complex challenges’ faced by the country, the Philippines has been ‘exceptionally well-performing,’ leading the United Nations special agency International Monetary Fund to commend President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr.’s leadership in the ‘last year of turbulence.’

DAVOS, Switzerland — President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Wednesday said the Philippines has the economic numbers and the fundamentals that will allow it to escape a feared global recession in 2023.

As two-thirds of the chief economists surveyed here expect negative or minimal growth for most countries this year, Marcos, at the key events and on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum here, “megaphoned” his economic team’s optimism that the Philippines can even surpass its 6.5 percent growth target.

With the tailwinds of the Ukraine conflict, among other factors, slowing down economies just now trying to get out of the Covid-19 pandemic, Marcos has practically served as the poster boy for multilateralism, globalization, and economic rebirth at WEF.

Tony Blair, former prime minister of the United Kingdom, met with Marcos on Tuesday and said he could not have picked a better time to be in Davos to showcase and build up the Philippines’ stature on the global stage.

“So to have somebody come and articulate very clearly where the country is going, what it’s doing, I think it sends a good signal,” Blair said, adding that the Philippines did not look as good last year at the end of the Duterte administration.

Marcos also met with Blair in the United States in September 2022 on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly and again the following October in Malacañang.

Both men agreed that in business, investors are more likely to come when there are no surprises and when they know the conditions on the ground.

“There should be some kind of stability, some kind of consistency whichever way you’re going. So in terms of policy from the political end, I think that’s important,” Blair said.

Marcos told Blair that the Philippines’ development plan was anchored on digitalization, logistics, infrastructure development, energy, tourism and food security.

Blair heads the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, pushing for “open, inclusive, and prosperous societies in a globalized world.”

IMF praise
The President also earned praise from International Monetary Fund managing director Kristalina Georgieva during their bilateral meeting.

“We found the Philippines to be an exceptionally well-performing country… what you have done in the last year of turbulence to sustain growth… is quite commendable,” Georgieva told Mr. Marcos.

Georgieva came short of saying the IMF was more than willing to provide the Philippines with more loans as she expressed the lending organization’s readiness to help its member countries or countries with outstanding debts with the IMF.

“We have been really interested to engage more deeply with our members to recognize the traditional challenges… they are still there,” Georgieva said.

The Philippines joined the IMF, a special agency of the United Nations “promoting global monetary cooperation,” in 1945.

Aside from meeting with Blair and Georgieva at the by-invitation-only forum hosted by the Geneva-based WEF in the skiing resort town of Davos atop the Swiss Alps, Marcos and First Lady Lisa Araneta-Marcos also joined WEF founder and chair Dr. Klaus Schwab and his wife, Hilde, in a private dinner.

In an interview with Bloomberg, Marcos said the country has the economic numbers and fundamentals down pat to further bring down the unemployment rate among Filipinos while increasing their purchasing power by taming inflation.

“Our economy’s basics have been rather stable, our growth rate has remained above 6.5 percent for 2022 and I think 2023 will be the same situation. Our unemployment rate is continuing to go down,” he said.

“I look at the unemployment rate, (and) as long as the unemployment rate is not at an alarming level, then it’s quite likely you will not have to go through a recession,” Marcos told Bloomberg.

The Philippine Statistics Authority estimated the unemployment rate in November 2022 at 4.2 percent.

Like most countries, the President said the one problem the Philippines has to deal with creatively, monetarily, and otherwise, is the skyrocketing costs of commodities and services.

He said supply-side issues for goods like pork, rice, sugar, and more recently, onions are being addressed, through importations in the short term and more long-term and consistent support for farmers.

Importation, he said, is being rationalized along with a crackdown on smuggling, saying that for onions “it’s almost impossible for us to determine how much” of the cooking staple there was, how much we have in the country.”

“We didn’t (know) where they were, what they were, and where they came from. So we’ve rationalized that now and our importation schedules are well-established and well-understood,” he said.
Consultations, including with onion growers in the Philippines, are constant, the President said.

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