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PHL is most improved country in global competitiveness – WEF report

(Updated 7:59 p.m.) The Philippines is the "most improved country overall" in terms of global competitiveness in the last four years, reflecting reforms that lifted the economy from the doldrums, the World Economic Forum (WEF) said in a global report released Wednesday. 
In an e-mailed statement, Philippine Ambassador to Switzerland Leslie J. Baja – who was present during the official release of the report in Geneva – said the Philippines ranked 52nd or seven notches up from 59th last year in terms of global competitiveness.
It climbed 33 notches since 2010, "the largest over that period among all countries studied," WEF said in the report.
Baja said WEF officials noted the Philippines has consistently risen in the Global Competitiveness Index (GCI), going up 23 notches since 2010 during the start of the Aquino government.

Good governance

In a separate statement, Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima said the Philippines' leap in the competitive index is a clear indication of "good governance is good economics" platform of the Aquino administration.
"The role of the Filipino people’s ingenuity and creativity in driving investors’ confidence is again showcased in this report as marked by the improvement in our 'innovation' pillar ranking, up to 52nd this year from 69th last year," he said.
The country's ranking was also largely influenced by governance and fiscal reforms set by the Aquino administration, Budget and Management Secretary Florencio "Butch" Abad said in another statement.
"The WEF has recognized the administration's efforts to curb the very same corruption that has long stymied our progress. What we are now seeing is that our governance reforms are bearing fruit. We're pleased that the world agrees," Abad said.
In Southeast Asia, the Philippines ranked fifth out of the 10 countries, following Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia.
"The country has overtaken Brunei and placed ahead of Vietnam, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Cambodia and Myanmar," Baja said.
The Philippines is also among the Top 5 “Emerging and Developing” countries in Asia, next to Malaysia, China, Thailand and Indonesia, the ambassador noted. 
Switzerland was still the most competitive country followed by Singapore, the United States, and Finland, according to WEF.

A promising economy

Abad said the latest WEF recognition proves the Philippines is one of the world's most promising economies.
"There's no reason why we can't do better, as long as we're guided by our drive  for good governance, and as long as Filipinos remain engaged in our work of bureaucratic transformation," the Budget Secretary said.
While the new ranking bodes well for the sustained positive business sentiment in the country, Purisima said there are still "untapped" opportunities to make doing business in the Philippines more attractive.
"The government has aligned its priorities with these opportunities, such as greater investment in quality infrastructure, so we may reap their benefits in the coming years," he said.
"With these efforts in place, I am confident that the Philippines will go on to cement its role as a major economic player in this region," he added.

Infrastructure issues, port congestion

But in order to sustain an upward climb in global rankings, government has to address issues in infrastructure—mainly in airports, ports and power, health and primary education, National Competitiveness Council co-chair Guillermo Luz told GMA News Online.

"These are the areas that have really held us back," he said.

The port congestion issue, which has slowed down the transport and raised the prices of goods, should be resolved immediately, Luz said.

"We have to divide the problem, because it's not just the port problem but also the truck ban in Manila," he said.

"If the truck ban has been formulated differently, we would have less problems," he added.

In February, the local government banned cargo trucks from Manila's main thoroughfares from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m., a move that created a backlog in deliveries to, through and from the Port of Manila.

The Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) blamed the daytime truck ban as the root cause of the congestion problem in Manila ports.

If these concerns are addressed, Luz said, the Philippines would be able to climb to the upper third of the WEF list.

"The Philippines was at the bottom third of the world in 2010. Our goal is to be on the upper third of the list. Next year, we might be able to reach that," he noted. VS/BM, GMA News