Philippine business optimism bucks global trend

Filipino businessmen are much more bullish about the economy than the rest of the world but are cautious to hire more people due to the country’s dwindling talent pool.

The Grant Thornton International Business Report (IBR) for the first quarter of 2013 reported that the Philippines is the second most optimistic country about the economy for the next 12 months with a an optimism balance of 90%, just behind Peru with 98%.

“Balance” refers to the proportion of companies reporting they are very or slightly optimistic less those claiming they are slightly or very pessimistic.

Continued optimism among Filipino businessmen in the first three months of the year beaten the average balance of 29% for the Southeast Asian region and the 27% global average.

But the survey, released by Punongbayan & Araullo Wednesday, also revealed “an alarming gap” in the Philippines between businesses’ hiring appetite and the depth of the local talent pool, partly stunting possible development in an already booming economy.

Close to half of the respondents (46%) said that dwindling numbers of skilled workers for specific jobs is a roadblock to growth, a steep climb from 20% in the first quarter last year.

However, the same proportion of respondents (46%) say they have plans to hire new people in the next 12 months.

“Considering this picture, business leaders may run into problems filling positions in their organization,” says Marivic Españo (pictured), chair and chief executive officer of Punongbayan.

“It’s an unfortunate situation, because we have a 7.1 percent unemployment rate and yet executives are complaining that they can’t find talent. Perhaps the private sector and the academic community can work together to address this gap before it gets bigger,” she recommends.

On the plus side, expectations for the next 12 months on profitability and revenue are both up 10 percentage points to 74% and 76% respectively.

Españo said positive business forecasts from independent economists leading up to 2013 are priming investment interest in the country. Also, she said that more mature markets are showing signs of willingness to open their coffers as pessimism eases.

“There is good foundation for this surge in optimism among business leaders. And I think businesses here are picking up on the improving mood in the more mature markets, such as the US and Japan.”

Optimism in both countries did show marked improvement this quarter compared to the last quarter of 2012, from -4% to 31% for the United States and from -70% to -2% for “perennial pessimist” Japan.

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