3 June 2014
Conversations about corruption, Manila’s transport system and a general optimism for the ASEAN region: five of JLL’s senior Asia Pacific leadership team, who attended the recent WEF East Asia in the Philippines, share their most interesting insights from the forum.
It’s the first time we’ve heard people talk openly about corruption. In virtually every session, there was talk about it. The impact, how dangerous it is if you become complacent and that we need to deal with it as a region.
I was also impressed by the physical presence of the Philippines President on, not one but three separate occasions – at the opening plenary, a closed-door session and a dinner he hosted – he was very candid and that was really inspiring. He’s a very eloquent speaker.
What was by far the most telling thing was the general positivity about everything to do with Southeast Asia. Did you know that while Accenture have 100,000 people in India, they have over 35,000 in the Philippines? Not just in BPO but also high-end software development.
Companies in attendance represent a unique mix of private sector, government and academia which makes for thought provoking conversations and sharing of concerns and ideas.
While this was the second WEF East Asia I have attended, it was my first time in Manila. It was interesting to discover the many similarities that exist between Manila and Bangkok: the two cities suffer heavy traffic congestion; both Manila and Bangkok’s retail markets are dominated by only a few shopping centre developers and operators (Ayala and SM Group in Manila, and Central Group and The Mall Group in Bangkok).
I also discovered a couple of differences, primarily Manila’s progress on converting non-private land into amazing mega commercial property development projects - The Bonifacio Global City for example. In Bangkok, there has been lots of talk about large public sites that are suitable for mega commercial development projects but none have been successfully turned into concrete actions to-date.
There was a genuine feel-good vibe at the Forum which I am sure will translate into significant progress across all sectors of the economy and positively impact the geo-political and economic environment across ASEAN.
The whole event was extremely well run and very enjoyable to attend. By the end of it I felt both energised by the opportunities and exhausted by the schedule. Great fun all round and I look forward to hosting you all in Jakarta for the WEF 2015.
Many people that attended this year’s WEF East Asia were visiting Manila for the first time and had a certain expectation from what they had seen in the media and in economic journals published by the investment community. However, I got the sense that the vast majority were actually pleasantly surprised to find that Manila is far more impressive than they expected. Yes, it's very far from perfect but it seems the balance of opinion tilted more to the positive than negative and this made the experience very much worth it. Hopefully, as a result, many of these visitors will go on to invest in the Philippines in some capacity.