By  | Yahoo! Southeast Asia Newsroom – Mon, Oct 8, 2012


A view of EDSA during the rush hour. (Photo courtesy of Yen Baet)

The Philippines’ recovery from the Asian financial crisis and its high potential for growth has prodded a business website to name it one of the “New Tigers” in Southeast Asia.

The Philippines, as well as Indonesia, have “come of age” and are “poised to drive future growth and grab more economic power,”Market Watch said.

“In an economically vibrant Southeast Asia, Indonesia and the Philippines stand out as the region’s ‘New Tigers’ with the potential to leave a bigger imprint on global growth for years to come while the developed world struggles with excess debt and traditional regional heavyweights China and India lose momentum,”  it added.

This review of the Philippines is the latest in a string of recent positive assessments and forecasts, most of them noting deep-seated governance reforms and its impact on ease of doing business.

The Philippines and Indonesia’s edge over other countries in the region, Market Watch said, include “large and young labor force, an expanding middle class and… elected governments with policies inspiring investor confidence.”

Sturdy banks and enough foreign exchange reserves also put the countries at an advantage, it added.

National debt also remains low in the Philippines and Indonesia compared to countries in the West, “leaving both enough room to boost their economies in case of need,” the report said.

Market Watch also noted that the two countries’ stock markets “are among the world’s best performing since the end of 2008.”

Marking the two countries’ takeoff, Market Watch said, is their leap from borrower to lender status in the International Monetary Fund, with each pledging $1 billion to replenish the multilateral bank’s funds.

This, as Market Watch noted that the IMF bailed out the two countries during the Asian Financial Crisis of the late 1990s.

These developments have not escaped the view of global investors which are now turning their heads toward the Philippines and Indonesia, Market Watch said.

“Both markets have been a popular choice for investors since 2009 and have extended a solid upward run with sharp gains so far this year,” it noted.

Market Watch highlighted the Philippines’ status as second to Thailand’s best-performing stock exchange in Asia so far this year, rising 18 percent. Indonesia’s Stock Exchange meanwhile gained 4 percent.

“Signaling the strength of foreign investor interest in both the Philippines and Indonesia, new products have been developed to provide overseas investors with more options to access those markets,” it noted.

The two countries are not free from risks, however, with Market Watch noting that challenges include “sustaining political stability, tackling widespread corruption and improving their poor infrastructure.”

The Philippines’ heavy dependence on remittances from overseas workers may also prove to its disadvantage amid a weak global environment, the report added.

This, even as it echoed forecasts that the services sector and high remittances will drive economic growht in the Philippines this year.

“To sustain its trajectory, the Philippines needs to not only get more value out of existing industries, but also forge new ones,” Market Watch said.

An expansion in the tourism sector may be the perfect fit, with the report noting that it may “help absorb labor in its swelling population.”

For tourism to takeoff, however, Market Watch said the government must address the issue of poor infrastructure.

Aging roads and inadequate airports choke economic development while also discouraging tourism, the report said.

“The problems are curtailing the growth of what many see as the critical next-wave industry,” it added.

Aside from tourism, mining could also drive growth for the Philippines, Market Watch said.

“The country is rich in minerals including copper, gold and nickel, but development of the mining industry has been stalled by political resistance and layers of red tape,” the report noted.

“Regardless of which industries the Philippines seeks to develop, international backing will be crucial,” Market Watch said.

The world-recognized four Asian Tigers are Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea, and Taiwan.

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