Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has just signed the long awaited Ease of Doing Business Act which further demonstrates Duterte’s commitment to transform The Philippines from a small business minefield into an investment capital in south east Asia. Earlier this year, The Philippines was ranked as the number one global investment destination by US News and World Report. The new Act looks to encourage further investment while also importantly encouraging more Filipinos to start their own businesses by removing the ability of corrupt bureaucrats to elongate what should be the simple and cost effective process of attaining and renewing trading licences and business operation permits.
Trade Undersecretary Rowel Barba has described the Act in the following way:
“This will have a big impact for the delivery of services as far as businessmen are concerned. One, it provides for periods where permit or license should be issued. Three days for simple transaction, seven days for complex transactions, and 20 days for highly technical, subject to another special 20 working days.
Second it provides for a two-strike policy where erring government officials who failed to issue such permits within the said periods. First offence is suspension for six months, second offence is termination with criminal liability and penalty of P500,000 to P2 million so that will be a landmark legislation and it will be signed by the President this week”.
Duterte hailed the bill as “long overdue” stating that it will cut red tape and “spare our people from intolerable waiting times and long lines at government agencies”. Duterte further stated that this bill will force both local and national bureaucrats to process simple applications in no more than three days, while complex applications will now be processed in a week or less.
Duterte further stated that local governments will be mandated to set up automated “one stop services” for business owners which include new online portals which will help to bring the web based business culture of The Philippines into the 21st century.
“One of the priorities of our 10 point social-economic agenda is to encourage competitiveness…We are promoting integrity and accountability in all levels of government….In automating our bureaucratic processes in day to day transactions, we do not just bring our people closer to the government, we are also forging a productive relationship (between business and government)”.
Duterte further slammed the antiquated way that business relations with the government had previously been dealt with, stating that graft and corruption is “like chewing gum” in the sense that it is used every day to “wash out the dirt” before being spit out when “the taste runs out”. He continued to threaten to fire any officials who stand in the way of implementing these reforms without hesitation, saying “I do not need you and maybe you don’t need me”.
The Philippine President also stated that there are many talented professional men and women who would love to work in government and that such people are more deserving than many of the corrupt officials currently in official posts, warning that graft and corruption are vices that cannot be tolerated as they will hold back the economic progress of the nation. Channeling Singapore’s founder and economic revolutionary Lee Kuan Yew, Duterte said that “there is something seriously wrong with this country” if it cannot come to grips with the necessity of innovation and a smooth, honest interface between business and government.
Both local and international businesses have hailed the legislation as a means of opening up The Philippines to a new wave of entrepreneurialism that has generated vast quantities of wealth in fellow ASSEAN states including Singapore and more recently in Malaysia. Duterte’s tough line on corruption will help to free businesses from the corruption that has caused decades of stagnation to the Philippine economy while also helping to open up the country to much needed clean international investment.