Restarting Wonderful Friendship With Spain
Before the Great Recession that started in 2008, Spanish investors were conspicuously absent among the foreign investors in the Philippines. There were some failed attempts in the last century in the banking, food manufacturing and tourism sectors (notable exceptions were Mapfre, largest insurance company in Spain and Indra, an IT enterprise). In my travels to other ASEAN countries, I was struck by the greater presence of Spanish business in Vietnam and Indonesia than in the Philippines, despite our much closer historical and cultural ties with what was referred to as the “Iberian Tiger” in the last quarter of the twentieth century and the first years of the third millennium. Of course, part of the problem was our own fault. We were for too long the “sick man of Asia” in the last century. Foreign investors in general were repelled by our many protectionist policies, a good number of them embedded in our Constitution. On the side of Spain, their investors were focused on Latin America, Africa and Europe. Spanish business people had little exposure to Asia, with the exception of China.