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Foreign Business Execs Approve of Wealth Fund

Foreign business leaders in the country agree that if properly implemented, the Maharlika Wealth Fund (MWF) could be very beneficial for the Philippines. The Italian Chamber of Commerce in the Philippines Executive Director Lorens Ziller believes a sovereign wealth fund will make the country an attractive destination for investors from all over the world. "There can be immediate actions to investments made, when it is actually needed at the right time," Ziller said during The Manila Times Roundtable interview on Friday

(From left) Jesper Svenningsen, executive director of the Nordic Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines; Lorens Ziller, executive director of the Italian Chamber of Commerce in the Philippines; Chris Nelson, executive director of the British Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines join Dante ‘Klink’ Ang 2nd, chairman and CEO of The Manila Times, in a discussion on the Philippines’ economic recovery, the wealth fund and the business climate in the country, among others, at the Times office in Manila on Friday, Jan. 13, 2023. PHOTO BY J. GERARD SEGUIA

The MWF is a sovereign fund, which the government will use to invest in a wide range of outlets such as foreign currencies, fixed-income instruments, domestic and foreign corporate bonds, commercial real estate, and infrastructure projects. Chris Nelson, executive director and trustee of the British Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, also underscored the benefits of institutionalizing the proposed MWF during the roundtable, which was hosted by The Manila Times Chairman and CEO Dante "Klink" Ang 2nd.

Nelson noted that many wealth funds have been successfully managed and delivered results."I think more than a hundred of them with France and Norway having the largest one, including Singapore's trade funds," he said. "The whole key to a wealth fund or at least the one being proposed here is to look at longer term investments because a lot of the other wealth funds do invest across the world," Nelson said. Nelson said he saw the wisdom in President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. scheduling the "soft launch" of the MWF during the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, which starts on January 16."It is really a good idea to bring up the MWF in Davos because you cannot isolate the Philippines from what is happening across the world, more so because of the two-year pandemic," Nelson said.

During a pre-departure briefing in Malacañang on Thursday, Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Carlos Sorreta said the Davos forum "is a great venue to do a sort of soft launch for our sovereign wealth fund, given the prominence of the forum itself and global and business leaders will be there." Nelson said Marcos "has been to the US, to China and Brussels, he has been very active and that is a great credit." Attending the WEF will earn him points with those who will be attending "because you want people to talk about the Philippines."

"It would be nice if in Davos he is able to talk about the Philippines, not about other countries. Obviously we have to be candid as well because we are in competition with other countries. I myself would like to see the Philippine government visit the UK with a delegation. That's what we really want," he said.

Nordic Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines Executive Director Jesper Svenningsen, who joined Ziller and Nelson in the roundtable, also agreed the wealth fund can reap benefits for the country. But Svenningsen said that if there is another key issue that President Marcos should raise in Davos, it should be the impact of climate change on the Philippines. "The Philippines is one of the countries that is hardest hit by climate change," he said. Svenningsen said many countries have "pledged money" to help countries most vulnerable to climate change. "I think the Philippines should open up discussion about that and say 'this is where we have been impacted, we need your help,'" he said. "There is nothing wrong in asking for it," Svenningsen said.

Source: Baroña, Franco Jose C. The Manila Times, January 2023


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