World Bank hails Philippines as next Asian ‘miracle’

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Updated 16 July 2014

World Bank hails Philippines as next Asian ‘miracle’

MANILA: World Bank president Jim Yong Kim on Tuesday described the Philippines as the next “Asian miracle” and a global model in fighting corruption, as it emerges from decades as a regional economic laggard.
Kim said President Benigno Aquino should take much of the credit for the turnaround, highlighting his anti-corruption campaign, efforts to build transparency in government and focus on “inclusive growth.”
“Can the Philippines be the next Asian miracle? (After) coming here, I think there is no question that is the case,” Kim, who was on a two-day visit, told a forum at the presidential palace.
Kim heaped praise on Aquino’s anti-graft fight, which has seen the president’s predecessor and three sitting senators charged with corruption, as well as the impeachment of a Supreme Court chief justice.
“Among the most important things you can do is tackle corruption and... that is one of things that the (Aquino) government is doing frankly better than any government in the world,” Kim said.
“Around the world, the spread of information technology is converging with grassroots movements for transparency, accountability and citizen empowerment.
“Under your leadership, President Aquino, the Philippines is absolutely at the forefront of this transformation.”
Kim said the Philippines, where one quarter of the roughly 100 million people live in deep poverty, had huge potential. He cited its strong macroeconomic fundamentals, prudent monetary policies and young workforce.
He said the World Bank expected the Philippines’ economy would expand by 6.6 percent this year, maintaining its status as one of the fastest growing in Asia.
The economy grew by 7.2 percent last year, second only to China.

Timely boost
Kim’s strong endorsement was a timely boost for Aquino, with two polls released this week showing the president’s public support dropping to record lows amid deep controversy over a budget stimulus program.
The Supreme Court this month ruled the program was unconstitutional, with the 13 judges issuing a unanimous opinion that Aquino should not have bypassed Congress in spending 160 billion pesos (nearly $3.7 billion).
Critics have linked the controversy to a giant corruption scandal engulfing potentially more than 100 politicians, including the three senators who have been charged and are behind bars.
But Aquino has insisted the two issues are separate and that his administration is largely free of corruption.
He said on Monday he would appeal to the Supreme Court to reconsider its ruling, and in a speech alongside Kim on Tuesday again defended the stimulus program.
“We had to act. We knew that, if we were to bring about inclusive growth sooner rather than later, we needed to be proactive and pump-prime the economy,” he said.
The Philippines was last year ranked the 94th most corrupt of 175 countries by anti-graft group Transparency International.


Indonesia hails ‘historic’ $22.9bn mega-investment deal with UAE

Updated 17 January 2020

Indonesia hails ‘historic’ $22.9bn mega-investment deal with UAE

  • Leaders agree initial $6.8bn projects plan, including initiative to build a replica of Abu Dhabi grand mosque in Java

JAKARTA: Indonesia’s business community on Thursday welcomed the UAE’s pledge to pump tens of billions of dollars into a wide range of key sector projects.

President Joko Widodo and his entourage secured an overall $22.9 billion deal during an official two-day visit to Abu Dhabi earlier this week covering the fields of energy, logistics, port construction, mining, and agriculture.

It was also revealed that the delegation brokered a UAE commitment to assist in establishing an Indonesian sovereign wealth fund.

At a bilateral meeting, the Indonesian leader and the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan witnessed the signing of 11 business accords between the two countries. Indonesia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Retno Marsudi said the UAE had committed to investing $6.8 billion out of the total agreed spending package into the initiatives.

Luhut Pandjaitan, Indonesia’s chief minister for maritime affairs and investment, described the UAE’s pledges as possibly being “the biggest deals in Indonesia’s history, secured with the UAE within only six months,” referring to the crown prince’s visit to Indonesia last July.

While most lauded the deal, some Indonesian business leaders remained cautious over the long-term prospects for the projects.

Fachry Thaib, head of the Middle East Committee and OIC at the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce, said the schemes could trigger a wide-ranging domino effect through job creation and other business ventures.

“The government needs to have a strong lobbying team that can follow up these deals and push them into investment realizations. We have had such commitments from other Gulf countries, but there was no further lobbying and the pledges were hardly realized,” he told Arab News.

Zaini Alawi, a businessman who exports and imports between Indonesia and the Middle East, said: “It would set a good precedent to attract other Gulf countries to invest here if Indonesia shows it could aptly manage these investment deals.”

Director for Middle East affairs at Indonesia’s Foreign Ministry, Achmad Rizal Purnama, told Arab News that the $6.8 billion commitment from the UAE was only the first phase of a long-term program.

Widodo and the crown prince also witnessed the signing of five government cooperation agreements in health, agriculture, Islamic affairs, and counterterrorism.

Indonesian Minister of Religious Affairs Fachrul Razi said one of the main aspects of the cooperation agreement would be the promotion of religious moderation and raising awareness of the dangers of extremism.

FASTFACT

The UAE has pledged to assist in establishing an Indonesian sovereign wealth fund.

Noting that the UAE had pledged to fund the construction of a replica of the Abu Dhabi grand mosque in Solo, the president’s hometown in Java, the minister pointed out that the grant was part of a commitment by the two countries to establish a mosque that welcomed all people and served a pivotal role in promoting the middle path of Islam.

Riza Widyarsa, a Middle East expert at the University of Indonesia, told Arab News that the cooperation deal could help more Indonesians to understand that not all countries in the Middle East observed conservative Islam. “They are also very active in countering religious extremism and radicalism,” he said.

In addition to the multi-billion-dollar projects, Purnama said Indonesia had also secured the UAE’s commitment to assist in establishing an Indonesian sovereign wealth fund into which the UAE, the US International Development Finance Corporation, and Japan’s SoftBank would inject funding.

And according to Pandjaitan, the UAE had pledged to be “the biggest contributor” to the fund.

The fund would be used to finance Indonesia’s ambitious infrastructure development projects and the construction of its proposed new capital in East Kalimantan, a relocation that has been estimated to cost $33 billion and of which Indonesia could only afford 19 percent.

He said all parties involved would meet in Tokyo soon to set up the structure of the fund and to finalize the plan, which the government expected to launch by mid-2020, a year after the crown prince proposed the idea to Widodo.

“This could be the first time that big capitalists work together in a single project,” Pandjaitan added.