Business groups support Go’s appointment as economic adviser

Business groups support Go’s appointment as economic adviser

By Luisa Maria Jacinta C. Jocson, Reporter

REFORMS to improve the ease of doing business and the Philippines’ investment environment should be on the top of the agenda for the newly appointed special assistant to the President, analysts said.

The appointment of Frederick D. Go as the head of the Office of the Special Assistant to the President for Investment and Economic Affairs (OSAPIEA) has received widespread support from business groups that believe his private sector experience will be valuable in crafting government policy.

“Under his helm, we expect the full and expedited implementation of reform initiatives which will remove red tape and promote the ease of doing business in the country,” Anti-Red Tape Authority (ARTA) Secretary Ernesto V. Perez said in a Viber message.

American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines Executive Director Ebb Hinchliffe welcomed Mr. Go’s appointment.

“In my interactions with (Mr. Go), I was encouraged by his desire to remove roadblocks to investment and to doing business in the Philippines,” Mr. Hinchliffe said in a Viber message.

“I am hopeful that this will translate into his new role and in the policies that the government’s economic cluster will pursue,” he added.

Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) President George T. Barcelon said that Mr. Go will be “an effective overseer of investment plans for the country.”

“He is a well-seasoned businessman, and he has (experience) on what’s happening in retail business and realty business. The fact is being a businessman, his mindset is on the delivery of what is (best) for the business sector,” he said in a phone interview.

Earlier this month, President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. signed Executive Order No. 49, which creates the OSAPIEA. It aims to “ensure effective integration, coordination and implementation of the various investment and economic policies and programs of the government.”

The special assistant to the President on investment and economic affairs will have the Cabinet-level rank of secretary and serve as chairperson of the Economic Development Group.

Mr. Go is relinquishing his role as president and chief executive officer of Robinsons Land Corp., effective Jan. 8, 2024.

“As a businessman whose leadership was vital in advancing various sectors, he has the advantage of understanding what needs to be prioritized and improved in government investment and economic policies to encourage more local and foreign investments,” ARTA’s Mr. Perez added.

Mr. Perez said he expects Mr. Go to formulate and implement new strategies to attract more investments with the support of the private sector.

“We are ready to assist them as they take the lead in fostering an inclusive, enabling and competitive business environment that will foster more local and foreign investments through our mandate under the Ease of Doing Business law,” he added.

Foreign Buyers Association of the Philippines President Robert M. Young said that since Mr. Go is coming from the private sector, he will be able to easily identify the key issues being faced by various industries.

“Being in the private sector, Secretary Go can relate to the problems in the private sector, of private players… He is a practitioner. Secretary Go will be the right person. We see him as the savior because he can relate to our problems,” he said in a phone call interview.

Mr. Barcelon said addressing high inflation and attracting investments should be among the priority areas that Mr. Go must focus on.

“He is aware that (high) inflation is something that we do not like… on investment, he must look at what key issues that need to be addressed for more investors to come in,” Mr. Barcelon added.

Mr. Young said that Mr. Go should be able to expedite key policies to improve the country’s investment climate.

“We have so many pending matters with the government that are not moving. Some for years and years already,” he said.

Mr. Young cited the Magna Carta for Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises and policies to lower Customs fees to make exports more competitive, among others.

“I think he can solve all this. He will be able to target these issues. This is urgent because these can generate jobs, it can generate revenues for the Philippine economy,” he added.

Mr. Young also noted that Mr. Go’s position is crucial to coordinate strategies among agencies.

The Foundation for Economic Freedom (FEF) in a statement said that persistent inflation is among the top concerns that Mr. Go must immediately address.

“Mr. Go will only succeed if he can get the different egos of various departments to work together, set a realistic plan with a clear set of priorities and timetable, and marshal the political will, backed by the President, to execute this plan,” the FEF said.

“A coherent economic program and swift execution will boost investor confidence and stimulate the capital markets, which are now in the doldrums,” it added.

Meanwhile, GlobalSource Country Analyst Diwa C. Guinigundo said that Mr. Go must continue the government’s fiscal consolidation path.

“One major challenge to many governments, including the Philippines, is keeping fiscal and debt sustainability especially after the pandemic. Mr. Go’s competence will be tested on how he could orchestrate public policy formulation and execution to achieve economic growth while keeping debt levels manageable, and taxes more progressive than regressive,” he said in a brief dated Dec. 22

Mr. Guinigundo said that Mr. Go will need to keep the fiscal deficit under control, assess big-ticket infrastructure projects with “questionable priority and fiscal feasibility,” and ensure the budget is allocated to priority areas such as education, health, and food security, among others.