January 17, 2023
MANILA — An economist has clarified that the trip of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to Davos, Switzerland, for the World Economic Forum (WEF) would be necessary to boost the country’s economy.
During the Laging Handa Public Briefing on Monday, economist and University of the Fraser Valley Associate Professor Michael Batu explained that the WEF is an opportunity for Marcos and his delegation to showcase the potential of the Philippine economy and, hopefully, attract investments back home.
“The beauty of the WEF is that this is an event where global decision makers are in a single event, meaning, if we are there, we would have access and you can talk to them, it can be done during workshops, and they also have country strategy dialogues,” Batu said in Filipino.
He also said that the WEF visit is a chance to build networks by simply engaging in conversations that can develop into pledges, especially as the administration is keen on creating a sovereign wealth fund (SWF) for the country.
“For example, if President BBM [Bongbong Marcos] talks to the world leaders and asks how they started their own Sovereign Wealth Funds, and with these discussions, the President learns something, he can pick up new information on starting our own SWF,” Batu added.
Marcos’ trip to Davos — eighth in his over the six-month term and second for 2023 — has been criticized as the country is currently experiencing several economic woes, particularly with inflation as prices of goods like sugar, onion, and eggs, not to mention fuel prices, have risen recently.
Earlier, several progressive groups stormed the Department of Agriculture (DA) office in Quezon City, demanding assistance for farmers instead of imposing importation.
According to the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), Marcos should expect to face the public’s wrath, given that prices of food products have skyrocketed while he makes these foreign trips.
Marcos is also the country’s current Agriculture secretary.
But Batu explained that there is more to the President’s foreign trips than just traveling, noting that the working visits can mean more business opportunities from tourism, exportation, and other business endeavors.
“The President can showcase the performance of our economy, and of course, there are investment opportunities where our President can invite foreign investments towards our country,” he said.
“Of course they can also promote the country as a tourist destination, and of course, the President already mentioned that there would be a soft launch of the Maharlika Investment Fund,” he added.
Earlier, House of Representatives Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez, who is part of the Philippine delegation, said he is confident that Marcos can use the WEF to introduce and explain to the world how the proposed Maharlika Investment Fund (MIF) would work.
It could be remembered that Romualdez and other House officials filed House Bill No. 6398, a bill seeking to establish the MIF — a sovereign wealth fund that the government can tap for investments locally and abroad.
It initially drew controversy after the bill’s original version included P125 billion worth of funds from the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) and P50 billion from the Social Security System (SSS) — stroking fears that pensioners may lose their funds if investments made by the MIF fail.
However, changes were made to the bill, and the House approved a version that no longer included GSIS and SSS funds and allocations from the national budget.