Punching below our weight

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    THE Philippines had reason to celebrate the other day. The World Bank had released its 2020 Report on 190 countries ranked according to ease of doing business, and the Philippines jumped 29 rungs from its 124th ranking in 2019 to 95th in the latest survey.

    The ranking achieves the government’s target of being within the top 50% of the countries ranked, and that’s why the DTI leadership led by Secretary Ramon Lopez was quick to broadcast these gains.

    They also announced that the target of the Philippines for the 2021 report is to be ranked among the Top 40%, or a ranking of at least #76.

    I find that very interesting. It smacks me of “punching below our weight.”

    Why do I say this?

    In the world today the Philippines is in the top 20 of the world’s most populous countries.

    The population size means two things: market and human capital. And that’s the reason why the Philippines is ranked among the Top 40 economies in the world – we are #37 in the ranking by the United Nations, #36 in the rankings of the IMP, and #37 in the rankings of the World Bank.

    Let that sink in.

    Now, if we are among the top 40 economies of the world, why are we ranked 95 when it comes to “ease of doing business?”

    A year ago it was even worse. When we were ranked 124th, we had the second worst score in East Asia and the Pacific, and had dropped 11 spots from our rank of 113 two years ago.

    The bases for the score were protested by Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez, and the DTI leadership credits that protest in part for the significant improvement of our score for the 2020 Report.

    But look at our ASEAN neighbors.

    Singapore ranked #2, with a score of 86.2. Malaysia was #12, at 81.5. Thailand was #21 with 80.1. Brunei was #66 with a score of 70.1. Vietnam was #70 at 69.8. Indonesia was #73 at 69.6. Let that sink in as well.

    We then followed at rank #95 with a score of 62.8.

    The only ASEAN countries with lower scores for ease of doing business were Cambodia, # 143 at 53.8, Laos at #154 with 50.8 and Myanmar ranked #165 at 46.8.
    Let that sink in, too.

    This is why I think the Philippines is punching below its weight. Even hitting Top 40 at rank #76 will keep it behind Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Brunei, Vietnam and Indonesia.

    Let’s face it. Doing business in the Philippines is like trying to cut through the Amazon rainforest with a bolo. Too many obstacles along the way, a lot of it political. You need to be good at twisting and turning, sometimes in the air, and still do your best to land on your two feet – something like gymnast Carlos Yulo.

    We may be doing good — but in a world where our neighbors are doing far better in establishing an environment that is conducive for business and investments we end up

    “Top 95” and punching below our weight.