NEDA assures foreign investors of gov’t support in labor upskilling, industry dev’t

The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) has assured the international business community that the Philippine government is taking steps to address concerns in the country’s labor and industry sectors, as outlined in the Philippine Development Plan (PDP) 2023-2028.

NEDA Secretary Arsenio M. Balisacan participated in an open forum with investors to discuss the social and economic development of the Philippines as well as the government’s efforts to improve the business climate in the country.

The panel discussion took place on May 31, 2023, during the German-Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry Inc. (GPCCI) Luncheon Forum, alongside Mr. Dante Tinga, Jr., Senior Vice President for Investor Relations and Corporate Planning of BDO Unibank Inc.

During the forum, the participants raised various concerns regarding the social, economic, and policy-related challenges in the Philippines, which were addressed by the NEDA chief.

Among the concerns discussed was the shortage of skilled workers in the country. To help address this issue, Balisacan shared the measures being taken by the government to better align education systems and upskilling programs with the needs of the private sector.

The NEDA chief explained that a significant problem stems from the mismatch between the demands of industries and the skills being developed by educational and training institutions.

He stated that concrete solutions to this issue include improving access to opportunities for lifelong learning through apprenticeships and increasing investments in Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) programs.

Balisacan also mentioned the potential for active collaboration with the private sector or industry associations, as they could play a role in assisting education and training institutions to effectively identify and address skill gaps.

A concern was also raised regarding the Philippine industries that have been left behind, such as the textile industry. Balisacan recalled how the Philippine textile industry used to be one of the most competitive industries in the country.

Although other industries have since overtaken textiles, there are ongoing efforts to revive this industry and other industries that have fallen behind global standards. Presently, Chapter 6 of the PDP 2023-2028 contains the strategies for revitalizing various industries, including textiles.

The discussion also touched on the effective implementation of the Ease of Doing Business Act and constraints on the entry and operation of foreign business and investments.

Several investors had also expressed their enthusiasm about the recent policy developments in the Philippines, taking special interest in the country’s recent game-changing reforms to drive investor interest.

In his keynote address during the same event, Secretary Balisacan presented the various infrastructure projects and investment policy reforms. These included the Build-Better-More Program, proposed amendments to the BOT law, and the nation’s development targets.

“These measures have improved the country’s investment environment by opening up key sectors of the economy and clarifying ambiguities in the rules that may have previously discouraged investors from entering,” he said.

Additionally, Balisacan emphasized the important role of public-private partnerships in the nation’s development, especially given the limited fiscal space.

“The public, through public-private partnerships, can benefit from the private sector’s ability to efficiently execute and implement projects, harness new technologies, as well as identify and adapt to rapidly changing market conditions in an agile manner,” said the NEDA chief.

The GPCCI is an international business community that promotes bilateral trade by supporting the market entry of German companies and representing Germany as the strongest economic partner in Europe.