Investors, Anyone?

The other day I was talking to a “veteran foreign investor”, that is, someone who has clinched a project or two during the last twenty six years starting with the LRT and other forgettable ventures with local businessmen. He said nothing can top Marcos’ time by the way one foreigner like him did business in this country. All that Marcos did was to call each one who matters in one deal and with a couple of this and that bottomlined the instructions, “I want this project handled by Mr. Foreigner and may you please coordinate with him.” And the next day Minister So and So beats a path towards your doorsteps and then you have the entire timetable morphing before your eyes. What he was saying was that it was so easy doing business during martial law. You were only talking to one man. Were those circumstances present today, the Philippines would be the sweetheart of investors of substance. But as the song goes, “some good things never last.”

After Marcos, was it really the deluge? In the sense that were we devoured after our brand of revolutions done twice over? With a courageous and activist judiciary dishing our the Manila Hotel, Shell Bataan, and Amari-PEA doctrines; inquisitive Congress; meddling local governments; and emasculated Chief Executive, (not to mention the voluble Ka Roger and his pronouncements lapped up by the enterprising media), a perfected contract does not mean anything. He said that he has not seen in any parts of the world where the rules are interpreted in whichever way by a preponderant “coalition” of the said power centers. Thus, if the President has more friends in Congress or the Supreme Court, then you have reasons to sleep soundly. But if the President is in his lonesome specially after a midseason election, in other words, a lameduck, then check your mails for subpoenas from The Honorables, and the horror begins.

European investors who belong to the European Union don’t look this far anymore, according to my friend. East Asia where Philippines is part of, is no longer viewed with moist eyes. Understandably so because foreign investors are believers of one of our typical sayings that goes “para kang kumuha ng batong ipupokpok sa ulo mo!” And where do you think are they heading? The criteria is simple: short talks, strong governments, cheap labor and raw materials, passable infrastructure, geographically near, and beautiful women! My friend was talking about Eastern Europe and China! Before the feminists punch me in the nose this is the reality in real time. Maybe these standards may not be true anymore in ten years time, but do we have the luxury of waiting for a decade more? He told me one fun which kept me in stitches: There are just so many pretty women in Russia, he said, such that a teenaged-son confronted his father on why the latter was messing up with the former’s girlfriend. The father retorted, “for $10, I wouldn’t wake your mother up!”

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