The construction of a railway is seen in Balagtas, Bulacan, June 14, 2021. — PHILIPPINE STAR/ MICHAEL VARCAS

THE PHILIPPINES needs to ramp up efforts to improve infrastructure and educational system if it wants to become more globally competitive, experts said.

Christopher Ed C. Caboverde, research manager at the Asian Institute of Management-Rizalino S. Navarro Policy Center for Competitiveness, said the Philippines has faced challenges in attracting foreign investors due to high energy costs and infrastructure issues.

“One problem in the Philippines is really infrastructure and it keeps us from attracting investors. If I’m not mistaken, the Philippines has one of the highest energy cost in Asia. So, it is a big deterrent in attracting investors,” he told reporters on the sidelines of a forum in Makati City on Wednesday.

The Philippines fell four spots to 52nd out of 64 countries in the 2023 World Competitiveness Yearbook released by Switzerland-based International Institute for Management Development, from 48th spot in 2022.

The Philippines’ lower ranking was due to weaker performances in three out of the four factors of competitiveness, namely business efficiency factor (40th from 39th), infrastructure (to 58th from 57th), and government efficiency (to 52nd from 48th). Its ranking in terms of economic performance improved to 40th in 2023, from 53rd in the previous year.

The government plans to spend 5.3% of the gross domestic product (GDP) or about P1.29 trillion on infrastructure this year. Infrastructure spending is expected at 5-6% of GDP until 2028.

Aside from infrastructure, Mr. Caboverde said the Philippines should also make efforts to upgrade the skills of its workforce to become more competitive.

“One thing is that the private sector can also help in terms of providing solutions such as upskilling and reskilling. The private sector also has the expertise in terms of education, so it can help the government provide those solutions,” he said.

“The involvement of the public and private sector is important in improving competitiveness because it is not just in the hands of the government. It’s also the job basically of everyone. I think it is the job of everyone involved,” he added.   

Ser Percival K. Peña-Reyes, director of the Ateneo Center for Economic Research and Development, told reporters that the government should focus on improving the “basics.” 

“There’s a lot of potential in agriculture, manufacturing, and industry. We lost our competitive edge because we neglected the basics… We should also focus on health, education, food and housing. (The government) should provide the basics and then I think we’ll improve a lot on our competitiveness,” he added. — RMDO