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Market Competition Key to Create More and Better Jobs in the Philippines

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Fostering fair market competition in key sectors including electricity, telecommunications, and transport, can improve services and generate higher-paying jobs in the Philippines, accelerating poverty reduction, according to a new World Bank study released here today.

Entitled Fostering Competition in the Philippines: The Challenge of Restrictive Regulation, the study finds that market competition is limited in sectors critical for quality job creation. Removing overly restrictive regulations and unequal and discretionary application of policies could improve productivity and add at least 0.2 percentage points to Philippine’s growth every year.

“Sustaining our growth through the reform of many highly distortive government policies will be the country’s key policy challenge in the coming years,” Philippine Competition Commission Chairman Arsenio M. Balisacan said. “The study provides useful insight to the Commission’s work of advocating pro-competitive government policies and interventions—one of the main thrusts of the proposed National Competition Policy,” he added.

Data show that the Philippine economy is more concentrated than other economies in the region, with a higher proportion of monopoly, duopoly, and oligopoly markets. While concentration might naturally result from the market conditions, these structures can be more prone to collusion and abuse of market power – abetted by a plethora of restrictive regulations and other restrictions.

These restrictions include state ownership and involvement in business operations; complex regulatory procedures and administrative burdens on start-ups; as well as barriers to trade and investments, including foreign equity investments.

“Ensuring that government policies and regulations do not create barriers to entry or distort the playing field is necessary to enhance private participation and unlock more investment opportunities for all businesses big and small,” said Mara K. Warwick, World Bank Country Director for Brunei, Malaysia, Philippines and Thailand. “The Philippines needs an even more competitive and vibrant private sector to generate the types of jobs and economic opportunities that can lift more people out of poverty, at a similar pace to its neighbors in East Asia.”

The study notes how these restrictions constrain the economy and negatively affect millions of Filipino consumers:

  • Electricity costs are high, and capacity is limited. This is largely due to the slow implementation of reforms, such as the open access provisions and retail competition, under the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) of 2001.
  • Limitations on foreign direct investments prevent the development of electricity infrastructure.
  • The prices of mobile phone services in the Philippines is the highest of all East Asia region, and four times higher than the average price in rich countries.
  • Restrictions in transport sectors, particularly cabotage rules and limits to foreign participation, impairs logistics in the Philippines, creating bottlenecks.
  • Lack of competition is one of the main reasons why domestic shipping in the Philippines is more expensive than in Malaysia or Indonesia.

“The Government of the Philippines has adopted key reforms to foster competition and limit state participation in sectors where private participation is typically possible and economically viable,” said Graciela Miralles Murciego, Senior Economist and lead author of the report. “But slow implementation continues to hinder the potential benefits of these reforms to consumers, keeping prices high and choices limited.”

The study aims to identify existing regulatory constraints to competition in key sectors, and in the economy as a whole, to help the National Economic and Development Authority and Philippine Competition Commission forge an effective competition policy. The report provides detailed recommendations for reducing regulatory restrictiveness along the following policy actions:

  • Tackling restrictive regulations in infrastructure and professional services to create more competitive conditions, which will have positive effects on other sectors of the economy.
  • Eliminating restrictions on foreign investors as well as among domestic investors in sectors where such regulatory restrictions create an uneven playing field.
  • Minimizing the scope of controlled prices to create the right incentives for firms to compete.
  • Ensuring competitive neutrality among public and private operators, which will promote a more effective use of public funds.
  • Streamlining burdensome administrative procedures for businesses to facilitate market entry and rivalry.

The study benefited from funds provided by the Australian Government through the Australia-World Bank Philippines Trust Fund and the Canadian government.

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Canada has the most comprehensive and elaborate migration system, but some challenges remain

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Canada has the largest and most comprehensive and elaborate skilled labour migration system in the OECD, according to a new OECD report.

Recruiting Immigrant Workers: Canada 2019 finds that Canada admits the largest number of skilled labour migrants in the OECD. Additionally, Canada also has the most carefully designed and longest-standing skilled migration system in the OECD. It is widely perceived as a benchmark for other countries, and its success is evidenced by good integration outcomes. Canada also boasts the largest share of highly educated immigrants in the OECD as well as high levels of public acceptance of migration. In addition, it is seen as an appealing country of destination for potential migrants.

According to the OECD, Express Entry – the two-step Expression of Interest system for federal permanent labour migration introduced in 2015 – has greatly improved efficiency and the effectiveness of permanent labour migration management. It allows for ranking migrants for selection from a pool of eligible candidates. A unique feature of the Canadian model, in contrast to other selection procedures, is the degree of refinement in the ranking of candidates eligible for immigration. It considers positive interactions of skills, such as between language proficiency and the ability to transfer prior foreign work experience to the Canadian context.

The OECD report stresses that core to Canada’s success is not only its elaborate selection system, but also the comprehensive infrastructure upon which it is built, which ensures constant testing, monitoring and adaptation of its parameters. This includes a comprehensive data infrastructure, the capacity to analyse such data, and subsequent swift policy reaction to new evidence and emerging challenges. Recent reforms addressed several initial shortcomings in the Express Entry system, such as too many points being attributed for a job offer (which led to a high intake of migrants working in the hospitality sector, for instance), and which were subsequently reduced. The current selection system focuses on human capital factors such as age, language proficiency and education and is largely supply driven – meaning that most labour immigrants are admitted without a job offer – in contrast to the majority of other OECD countries.

To further strengthen the system, Canada should address some remaining inconsistencies. For instance, entry criteria to the pool are not well aligned with final selection criteria and language requirements for several groups of onshore candidates are lower than for those coming from abroad. In addition, a specific programme designed to attract tradespeople allows migration for only a few occupations and not necessarily where there are shortages, which contrasts with its original objectives. Providing for a single entry grid based on the core criteria for ultimate selection would simplify the system and ensure common standards.

The management of permanent labour migration is shared between Canada’s federal and provincial/territorial (PT) governments. The increasingly significant role played by regional governments in selection and integration has resulted in a more balanced geographic distribution of migrants across the country. PT-selected migrants have a lower skills profile than federally selected migrants but boast better initial labour market outcomes and high retention. The OECD also recommends considering a provincial temporary foreign worker pilot programme, to allow PTs to better respond to regional cyclical or seasonal labour needs that are not otherwise met, without the need to resort to permanent migration through provincial nomination.

Most of the provincial nominees – like their federally selected counterparts – settle in metropolitan and agglomeration areas, a development that Canada is currently addressing with an innovative rural community-driven programme. This includes a whole-of-family approach to integration, designed to enhance retention. Indeed, the report notes that Canada has been at the forefront of testing new, holistic approaches to managing labour migration and linking it with settlement services, especially in areas with demographic challenges.

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Maintaining Economic Stability in Lao PDR

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Economic growth in Lao PDR is projected to rebound to 6.5 percent in 2019, up from 6.3 percent in 2018. Growth is expected to be driven by the construction sector, supported by investments in large infrastructure projects, and a resilient services sector, led by wholesale and retail trade growth. Against the backdrop of challenging domestic and external environments, the Government of Lao PDR has remained committed to fiscal consolidation by tightening public expenditure and improving revenue administration, according to the latest edition of the World Bank’s Lao Economic Monitor, released today.

Fiscal consolidation is expected to result in a decline in the budget deficit to 4.3 percent of GDP in 2019 down from 4.4 percent in 2018, driven by tighter control of the public wage bill and capital spending. This is expected to keep public expenditure stable at around 20 percent of GDP in 2019. The revenue to GDP ratio is projected to improve slightly in 2019 thanks to efforts to strengthen revenue administration and the legal framework. Looking forward, public debt is expected to decline from 57.2 percent of GDP in 2018 to 55.5 percent of GDP in 2021. The outlook until 2021 is subject to increasing downside risks.

Strengthening revenue collection is important to create fiscal space and reduce the burden of public debt,” said Nicola Pontara, World Bank Country Manager for Lao PDR. “Looking forward, it will be important to improve the business environment to support private sector development, including the growth of small and medium enterprises. These measures can contribute to maintaining a stable macroeconomic environment, promoting job creation and reducing poverty and inequality.”

The report includes a thematic section that summarizes the perceptions of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) on the business environment, based on the data of the World Bank Enterprise Survey. The key constraints reported by SMEs include access to finance, competition with informal firms – such as those that are not registered and do not comply with regulations – and electricity outages. The report maintains that strengthening the performance of SMEs can improve the quality of jobs, raise incomes, and contribute to the greater well-being of the Lao people.

The Lao Economic Monitor is published twice yearly by the World Bank Office in Lao PDR.

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Economic woes hold sway over geopolitics

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While geopolitical tensions in the Middle East Gulf remain high, with US sanctions recently extended to more Iranian officials and a Chinese oil importer, as well as another tanker seizure, oil prices (Brent) have eased back from the most recent high of $67/bbl. Shipping operations are at normal levels, albeit with higher insurance costs. The messages from various parties that vessels will be protected to the greatest extent possible, and the IEA’s recent statement that it is closely monitoring the oil security position in the Strait of Hormuz will have provided some reassurance.

There have been concerns about the health of the global economy expressed in recent editions of this Report and shown by reduced expectations for oil demand growth. Now, the situation is becoming even more uncertain: the US-China trade dispute remains unresolved and in September new tariffs are due to be imposed. Tension between the two has increased further this week, reflected in heavy falls for stock and commodity markets. Oil prices have been caught up in the retreat, falling to below $57/bbl earlier this week. In this Report, we took into account the International Monetary Fund’s recent downgrading of the economic outlook: they reduced by 0.1 percentage points for both 2019 and 2020 their forecast for global GDP growth to 3.2% and 3.5%, respectively.

Oil demand growth estimates have already been cut back sharply: in 1H19, we saw an increase of only 0.6 mb/d, with China the sole source of significant growth at 0.5 mb/d. Two other major markets, India and the United States, both saw demand rise by only 0.1 mb/d. For the OECD as a whole, demand has fallen for three successive quarters. In this Report, growth estimates for 2019 and 2020 have been revised down by 0.1 mb/d to 1.1 mb/d and 1.3 mb/d, respectively. There have been minor upward revisions to baseline data for 2018 and 2019 but our total number for 2019 demand is unchanged at 100.4 mb/d, incorporating a modest upgrade to our estimate for 1Q19 offset by a decrease for 3Q19. The outlook is fragile with a greater likelihood of a downward revision than an upward one.

In the meantime, the short term market balance has been tightened slightly by the reduction in supply from OPEC countries. Production fell in July by 0.2 mb/d, and it was backed up by additional cuts of 0.1 mb/d by the ten non-OPEC countries included in the OPEC+ agreement. In a clear sign of its determination to support market re-balancing, Saudi Arabia’s production was 0.7 mb/d lower than the level allowed by the output agreement. If the July level of OPEC crude oil production at 29.7 mb/d is maintained through 2019, the implied stock draw in 2H19 is 0.7 mb/d, helped also by a slower rate of non-OPEC production growth. However, this is a temporary phenomenon because our outlook for very strong non-OPEC production growth next year is unaltered at 2.2 mb/d. Under our current assumptions, in 2020, the oil market will be well supplied.

IEA

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