US firms in the Philippines “most optimistic” in ASEAN — survey

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By Kris M. Crismundo

MANILA, Sept. 5 (PNA) — The ASEAN Business Outlook Survey (ABOS) 2017 reported that United States companies based in the Philippines are the “most optimistic” in terms of overall investment environment among Southeast Asian nations.

About 77 percent of US firms in the Philippines said the investment environment in the country is improving, higher than ASEAN’s figure of 45 percent.

The country’s figure exceeded optimism of US businesses in Vietnam with 72 percent recognised improvement in investment climate; Myanmar with 70 percent; Cambodia, 69 percent; Laos, 58 percent; Indonesia, 35 percent; Singapore, 31 percent; Malaysia, 23 percent; Thailand, 22 percent; and Brunei Darussalam, 16 percent.

Majority of US companies with presence in the Philippines have forecasted their profit here to increase next year.

In the report’s US Investors’ Sentiments and Perceptions in the Philippines, 79 percent of US companies in the country have seen higher profits in 2017 while 11 percent have expected profits to “stay the same”, 4 percent projected decrements, and 6 percent were “not sure” about their profit outlook next year.

The survey also reported that 55 percent of US firms in the Philippines have expected to increase the number of workforce this year.

About 19 percent of US businesses here expressed their intention to expand within the country.

The latest ABOS also listed business factors in the country which US businesses are highly satisfied for the past ten years. These include: availability of low cost labor (72 percent), sentiment towards the US (77 percent), availability of trained personnel (68 percent), stable government and political system (51 percent), and personal security (45 percent).

On the other hand, business factors where satisfaction level is low among US firms are: lack of corruption (11 percent), infrastructure (13 percent), tax structure (13 percent), ease of moving products through Customs (15 percent), free movements of goods within the region (17 percent), and availability of raw materials (19 percent).

Moreover, 45 percent US businesses in the Philippines recognised that the administration of the former President Benigno S. Aquino III is “very effective” in boosting business confidence and promoting investment in the country, while another 38 percent of the respondents said the previous administration was “effective”.

Forty-three percent of US businesses here said they are “optimistic” that the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte can sustain reforms instituted by the Aquino administration, 2.0 percent are “very optimistic” while 40 percent are “neutral”.

Meanwhile, 59 percent of US businesses in the region considered ASEAN markets “have become more important in terms of their companies’ worldwide revenue over the past two years”.

“American businesses continue to see substantial commercial opportunity in ASEAN,” the ABOS stated, noting the region’s economic growth, rising number of middle class, regional integration, improvement in infrastructure, and limited growth opportunities in other regions as main factors of optimism in doing business in ASEAN.

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