5 Reasons to Be Optimistic about the Post-Pandemic Philippine Economy

Wazzup Pilipinas!?

It’s easy to get sucked into a cycle of negativity when faced with once-in-a-century disaster like the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the country has arguably survived much worse disruptions in the past. This time around, chances are the country will emerge stronger than ever before. Below are just some of the reasons to be optimistic about investing in a post-pandemic Philippines.

1.) We’ll Exit the Pandemic with a Better e-Commerce Sector

For years, the Philippines has, lagged behind its neighbors in e-commerce adoption, despite being a leader in social media use. However, the pandemic finally forced many Filipino consumers, businesses, and policymakers alike to jump aboard the e-Commerce train. Having experienced the benefits of eCommerce for the first time, few would want things to go back to the way they were.

At least, it seems that major investors believe this to be the case, as a growing portion of industrial land is starting to be dedicated to data centers and new domestic online customer service facilities. Emergency reforms meant to address the country’s status as a regional laggard have also enabled modest gains, particularly in internet speeds.

As the country moves toward a post-pandemic environment, we are likely to see continued adoption of e-commerce innovations that so many of us were reluctant to try out in previous years. If previous patterns in other emerging economies hold true, this increased adoption is likely to spur more domestic innovation in the future.

2.) The Philippines’ Continues to Have Strong Economic Diversity

Though many Filipinos may not realize it, services and high-tech exports are now the biggest contributors to our GDP. While COVID-19 has almost completely upended tourism, traditional retail, and many other parts of the service industry, most others were able to pull through or even make significant gains.

To add to that, more established sectors like high-value agriculture and natural resource exploitation continue to generate gains for the economy. Add our strong foreign inflows, thanks to our OFWs, and you have an economic setup that’s far more resilient to disruption than most other comparable countries. This diversity will likely continue to be a strong point in the unfortunate event of future global disruptions.

3.) Progress With Infrastructure Continues

Much ado has been made about the trillions in debt that the country has incurred to complete various major infrastructure projects and the additional trillions that had to be borrowed to deal with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The ultimate effects of this are infinitely arguable.

However, what is clear is that these infrastructure projects are likely to make lives easier and attract additional domestic and international investment, at least over the next few years. If the current thinking on infrastructure spending proves correct, then we are likely to see these projects generate healthy returns within the decade.

4.) FDIs Are Already Returning

Despite what your Facebook feed might be telling you, foreign investors are already returning to the country. While not in the droves that were coming in during the first quarter of 2020, the number of FDI commitments that have already been made—at the height of the pandemic no less—is nothing to sneeze at, and they are likely to increase again as the world recovers.

While the continued investment may be somewhat surprising, given the government’s less than stellar handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, a few things did work in our favor. Our geographic fragmentation and decades of investment outside of pandemic-ravaged Manila helped offset many of the losses that would have otherwise happened had we had a more concentrated economy.

Additionally, it seems most foreign investors are generally unconcerned with petty politics unless it affects their ability to make money. Most of them don’t have a bone to pick with whoever happens to be in power and, for better or worse, are only concerned with the bottom line. And for now, COVID or not, it seems to them that they could make money here,

5.) We Have a Demographic Advantage

The Philippines has a young, highly educated population, steeped in Western values, and with an above-average command of English. We can argue about the state of public education all we want, but the fact remains that we continue to attract investment precisely because of these demographic benefits.

Our comparative English mastery and familiarity with Western values offer advantages well beyond simply attracting call center investments. Proper communication is paramount for manufacturing, marketing, and virtually every other high-value economic activity, and we are well-poised to make full use of these strengths in comparison to our neighbors.

Through a combination of luck, foresight, and deft management, the Philippines is likely to be in a reasonably good position to grow in the years after the pandemic. The calamity itself may have provided the impetus to shore up various deficiencies in our economy’s infrastructure investments and eCommerce adoption.

Coupled with a young, creative, and English-proficient population, we are well-positioned to not only recover from the ravages of COVID-19 but also to gain significant high-value domestic and overseas investments as well.

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