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Investors are now looking elsewhere to invest as China slows down, said Melvyn Low, Citi Country Head of Association of ASEAN and Singapore Treasury and Trade Solutions, Business World Online reports.

“Our clients are all looking at what they could do in this part of the world… Asia (was) a China story for a very long time… of late, the multinationals (have) started to look elsewhere.”

“Asia became India and then the rest — which primarily is Southeast Asia — that’s why ASEAN has come more into focus,” Mr. Low told reporters in a media roundtable on Thursday.

He noted that ASEAN are giving multinational companies “interesting demographics” with a combined $2.4 trillion gross domestic product, 600 million people.

With the Philippines as a “standout” with an unprecedented growth rate of over 5% in the past years with an English-speaking work force and a consumer-driven economy, according to the report.

“Even if you think it might slow down a bit, 5% plus growth is actually very, very good… China is officially projecting 6.9% growth which in reality could be lower, so the Philippines is coming up to China, while the rest of Southeast Asia is not growing as fast,” Mr. Low said.

“The Philippines is the one standing out as the potential growth area market driven by private consumption…You got a hundred million people and 40 million working population. Large population is good on the consumer perspective and Filipinos do spend, unlike other countries and this is what multinationals want to see,” he added.

“The Philippines has a really, really good story to tell and I think [it] has potential to further grow…. So I cannot imagine any multinational not wanting to be here,” he said

“I like the BPO (business process outsourcing) because you are leveraging on your strength — skilled and English-educated work force,” Mr. Low said. “Human resource is your most valuable asset,” which needs to be “cultivated,” he added.

The Philippines will get the largest share of the expected investments coming to ASEAN, that’s why the country should “play to its strengths” which mainly points to services-related industries,  the Citi executive said. -John Esconde