It is said one should be careful of what one wishes for.
The news that President Aquino garnered (if you include the kitchen sink) $13 billion in Chinese investments could be one such instance.
The President was beside himself. He was visibly tickled the Philippines would corner a significant portion of the $1 billion China-ASEAN Fund: “It’s amazing that they are allocating a very huge amount for the country, more than 10% of the Fund. It seems the Chinese are concentrating on us.”
$100 million or so is hardly big money these days but never mind. Let us be thankful for small favors.
In contrast, the President’s U.S. visit last year only reaped a reported $3 billion in investments. By this measure, China is over four times richer than the U.S. or loves us four times as much.
It appears not attending the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony of Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo is paying off.
In exchange we may also have given up our exclusive claims on the Spratlys or so one might deduce from the announcement we are now undertaking oil exploration “jointly” with China.
Foreign investments, as a rule, should be welcome but there are caveats.
We want investments that follow our laws and do not corrupt our leaders. ZTE, one of the largest publicly listed Chinese technology companies, was allegedly at the center of the multi-billion bribery scandal involving the highest officials of our land. If a major Chinese company engages in such practices, what else can we expect? To his credit, the President made it clear such behavior is not welcome.
We want investments that offer good jobs at good wages.
We want investments that will leave a legacy to this country and not just pillage our land. A big part of the Chinese investments is in mining which raises a flag: There are widespread reports of environmental violations and safety issues among Chinese mining companies in their own country. Investments in this sector should comply with safety regulations, environmental laws and protection of indigenous heritage.
We want foreign investors who will not transfer their pollution to us, who will not export their smokestack industries to our country.
We want investments that will not exploit our patrimony. Australia and the U.S. have disallowed Chinese investments in strategic industries. We have laws that limit foreign investments in vital sectors like natural resources and land ownership but these are rampantly violated through use of “dummy” Filipinos.
We want investments that will bring more than just money. China itself is following such a policy. It recently refused to support an investment of General Motors in hybrid cars unless GM transferred the technology to the country.
We want investments that respect our culture and our people. The President announced that China will be bringing over 200,000 tourists to the country. We hope they are not the kind that sexually exploit our young or, like the two Chinese travel agents who dissed P-Noy’s brother-in-law, insult our countrymen.
The President assured Chinese businessmen of a level playing field. We hope this means equally rewarding good as well as punishing bad behavior. ZTE was never investigated.
We want investments that will not subserve our sovereignty as a nation We do not want to be a financial subsidiary, an apologist, a stalking horse, or a whore of any country. We do not want to be a nation that can be bought nor told what Nobel ceremony to attend.
“Foreign investments” is a favorite mantra of developing countries, a critical ingredient it is said for economic prosperity. Leaders hail it as a measure of success, a number to tack to the political scoreboard.
Yet let us understand that foreign investment is a two way street, with most of the traffic eventually returning to the source. Investors flock to a country because it offers rates of returns or resources not available elsewhere or to promote a mercantilist state agenda. There is no need therefore to gush over them or react in wonderment.
Foreign investors are not in it for the love of a country but for the love of money, their money.
Let us then be mindful of the quality rather than the quantity of such money. Let us not sell ourselves short nor deliver our destiny, as we are sometimes wont to do, to outsiders.