Dr. Bernardo Villegas

Largest vineyard in the world

Last April 18 to 27, 2023, First Metro Corporation, EDI  Staffbuilders and the University of Asia and the Pacific led a group of some top Philippine corporations—especially in infrastructures, renewable energy and agribusiness—in a road show to Spain.  The purpose was to try to convert pledges and promises to invest in the Philippines to actual inflows of Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs) from Spanish companies. It was a response to the appeal of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to the private sector to help follow up the results of his many trips abroad, a major objective of which is to bring in long-term capital to help improve Philippine infrastructures, renewable energy supplies and food security.

Following economic footsteps of Spain

It is interesting to note that the Plan of Stabilization that jump started the rise of the Spanish economy from the “sick man of Europe” to the Iberian tiger actively targeted  a major inflow of foreign capital into Spain by facilitating foreign investments in the country and by granting amnesty to all Spaniards who had illegally accumulated wealth abroad and who were willing to repatriate such wealth; capital held abroad by Spaniards could be brought back to Spain without fear of government prosecution.  The framers of the Plan of Stabilization clearly understood that a massive entry of foreign capital into Spain was the most effective way of obtaining external equilibrium.  A similar situation exists in the Philippines today:  we cannot continue the Build, Build, Build program started during the Duterte Administration without a massive dose of Foreign Direct Investments.

Following economic footsteps of Spain

I just led a road show for Philippine top executives and entrepreneurs to meet their counterparts in Spain for possible joint investments and trade relations. It was exactly  60 years ago, in 1963, when I first visited Spain as a young research fellow  with a fresh doctorate degree from Harvard and ready to do some case writing for what then was a fledgling business school that was being helped by the Harvard Business School in faculty and curriculum development.  That business school, started in 1958, is now one of the most famous business schools in the world, the IESE Business School, and has been ranked by the Financial Times for six consecutive years as the best in offering executive education programs.  In 2023, the Financial Times ranked its MBA program as third best in the world, followed by its former mentor HBS as fourth best.

Short term forecasts for 2023

Whatever happens in the global economy, the Philippine economy is resilient enough to continue growing at 6 to 7 percent for the entire of 2023.  In fact, there is a possibility that the GDP growth for the first quarter of 2023 could have surpassed 7 percent.  With a very experienced and competent Central Bank, inflation can be expected to slow down to 4 to 5 % by the end of the year.  Higher balance of payments deficit resulting from the slowing down of exports would lead to the weakening of the peso vs. the dollar, with year-end expected exchange rate to range between P55 to P56 to a US dollar.