PHL can tap India’s $1-B ASEAN loan facility for digital infra projects

A $1-billion loan facility being offered by India to economies within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is available to the Philippines to help fund its “Build, Build, Build” program and digital connectivity projects.

In a recent meeting with Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, Indian Ambassador to the Philippines Jaideep Mazumdar said his country “will be happy to offer” to the Philippines a credit line to this $1-billion loan facility.

At the same time, Ambassador Mazumdar said Indian companies remain bullish on the Philippines` growth prospects and would want to expand their investments here, particularly in the infrastructure and pharmaceuticals sectors.

Dominguez, in turn, said Indian companies are welcome to participate in the Philippines’economic emergence, especially in the areas of infrastructure and tourism, as he urged India to set up its world-renown hotel brands in the country.

The Finance chief said the Philippines is now in the process of improving its corporate tax system to make it simpler, fairer and more efficient, and thus attract more foreign direct investments (FDIs), especially in the “industries of the future” to which tax incentives would be granted to encourage them to set up shop here.

He also told the Ambassador that financial technology (fintech) is one other area that the Philippine government wants to tap and develop here to take advantage of digital innovations that would help expand the access of Filipinos to banking and insurance services and make electronic payment systems available to small and medium enterprises--in step with the Duterte administration`s goal of greater financial inclusion.

Dominguez cited, for instance, the country’s first-ever Overseas Filipino Bank (OFB), which, he said, should be transformed into a digital bank.

“It doesn’t make sense to establish branches in all main countries where Filipinos are; we want to do it digitally and we will welcome a proposal from the Indian group for that. We have at least 10 to 11 million Filipinos living abroad,” Dominguez told Mazumdar during the meeting.

During the meeting, Dominguez also brought up the possibility of sending Department of Finance (DOF) personnel to India to train as scholars at that country’s tax institute.

The Ambassador said India can offer short courses in areas such as ASEAN development and empowering micro, small and medium scale enterprises (MSMEs) or business programs at the India School of Business.

FDIs from India amounted to $8.61 million in 2017 (from $3.26 million in 2016). Key Indian investments in the Philippines are in textile and garments, information technology, steel, chemicals, automobiles and pharmaceuticals.

Several Letters of Intent (LOIs) to invest in the Philippines were signed by Indian or Indian-affiliated companies during President Duterte’s visit to India last January.

These companies include Adani Green Energy Limited (renewable energy), Interglobe Air Transport (tourism), Interglobe Technologies (business process outsourcing or BPO in hospitality industry), KG Information Systems (IT consulting), The Farm at San Benito (Narra Wellness Resorts Inc—medical wellness company, partly owned by Indian Naresh Khattar), and Hinduja Global Solutions (BPO).