Many have their eyes and ears at the ready for echoes from the five-day World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland ending on Friday where President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., invited to the gathering, plans a “soft launch” for his planned sovereign wealth fund.
The WEF, more than 10,600 kilometers away from the Philippines, is seen by Philippine officials as a major venue to do a soft launch for the fund, given the prominence of the forum itself as well as global and business leaders in attendance.
Without doubt, critics have slammed the proposed soft launch, with Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel saying the final version, as approved by the House of Representatives—the Senate has yet to look at the provisions this month—accommodates “different concepts which are already contradicting each other.”
Pimentel called tackling the Maharlika Investment Fund at this point is premature since the bill creating it “is not well thought of and it is not well written.”
A soft launch, for everyone’s appreciation, is a preview release of a product or service—in this case the MWF – to a limited audience prior to the general public, aimed at gathering data customer feedback, prior to making it widely available during an official release or grand opening.
President Marcos has said he will seek out potential partners for his agriculture and infrastructure development plans at the Davos conference.
In his pre-departure speech, Mr. Marcos added he will encourage potential locators on the Philippines’ readiness to receive multinationals seeking to expand their operations in Asia.
“I will draw attention to our efforts at building resilient infrastructure that bolsters our effort to reinforce robust and resilient supply chains, ensures food security, including critical inter-linkages with the health and nutrition sectors, while furthering climate-friendly, clean, and green energy to power the Philippine economy,” he said.
A bill creating the MWF—a key economic initiative for President Marcos—was passed by House of Representatives in December despite concerns over financial and corruption risks
The President will “introduce” the fund in Davos and discuss “why we are doing it and why it’s a good idea,” Foreign Undersecretary Carlos Sorreta said.
The bill allows the fund to maintain an overseas and domestic investment portfolio, including infrastructure projects, enabling the fund to enter into joint ventures.
Mr. Marcos is the only Southeast Asian leader and only one of two Asian leaders scheduled to attend the Davos gathering, with Philippine officials predicting this to be “wonderful position to represent not only our country but how our own region … can be the engine of growth for the world economy.”
Renato Reside Jr., an associate professor at the University of the Philippines School of Economics, said the success of the Davos trip will depend on the President’s “ability to sell our country to world leaders and investors.”
National Economic and Development Authority Secretary Arsenio Balisacan earlier said he believes the establishment of a sovereign wealth fund is appropriate despite the risks of a global recession and high interest rates.
“The participation of funds like this as a vehicle for attracting resources is, I think, appropriate at this time,” he said.