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We expected 2022 to be tough because of the Russia-Ukraine crisis and the US battling inflation by increasing interest rates, leading the Philippines, like many countries around the world, to follow suit. But despite what has happened in the last few days and all the headwinds, I think we are entering 2023 with greater optimism.
COVID cases are nowhere near levels that threaten to flood our hospitals; this despite the new Omicron subvariants that have come and gone, which proved how robust our immunity has become. I think our growth will continue and I believe that, perhaps by the second quarter, we will reach a tipping point where commodity prices will go down.
Interest rates definitely will taper off, and hopefully, by the second quarter and maybe towards the third, interest rates will go down and it will be the same with power rates. Barring any further escalation between Russia and the Ukraine, we might have already seen the worst.
That might be difficult to believe, I admit; not with prices being the way they are today. Sugar, for example, is at P4,000 per sack. But with the government allowing the importation of sugar and other crucial commodities, I think this is already being addressed.
Some sectors will shine brighter than others. We can see all around us that the retail sector has bounced back. The malls were full during the holiday rush and traffic around the major commercial centers in the NCR are back to pre-pandemic levels. The provinces benefited as well with the revenge travel that’s been going on.
It’s just too bad that the snafu with the air traffic monitoring system had to happen when it did, but we should take it as a cue that we need to really make our tourism infrastructure ready to compete with the rest of Asia. We are up against tourist powerhouses in the region like Thailand and Vietnam, and if we don’t move fast, we will lose our market share.
I can only imagine the impact of these headwinds on our small businessmen down the line. The way I see it, our MSMEs have indeed learned to cope with the lockdowns, rising commodities, and interest rates, but that doesn’t mean it has been easy for them. They bore the brunt of the impact, and that is why we are scaling up our efforts to help them.
Our MSMEs will definitely survive. They have survived the worst of the lockdowns, but now it is time to scale them up so we can begin the process of moving our economy forward. With the support of the Department of Trade and Industry and the Department of Agriculture, Go Negosyo continues to work with the government to push active mentorship in different areas around the country.
What also gives me confidence is the support that has been shown by our President and First Lady. The President is a strong believer in public-private partnerships; the Private Sector Advisory Council is proof of that. During the pandemic, we showed how the private sector can come through for the government by sharing its expertise in matters like logistics and forging agreements so that all parties benefit. Private sector will always choose to operate at efficiency and maximize resources.
Moreover, the government is aware that our MSMEs generate more than 62 percent of the jobs in the Philippines. If we scale them up – helping the micro become small, the small become medium – they will have the resources to be able to hire more people.
Agriculture is another critical sector we need to focus on. Within this sector can be found some of the most vulnerable members of our society. And on the consumer side, we have all seen and felt how profoundly any inefficiency affects every household in the country. I believe we can achieve much by letting big-brother companies help our micro farmers. The agriculture sector is unlike other industries and is by far the most challenging because of variables like climate, diseases, cost of inputs, not to mention the very complicated social issues affecting the sector. But we have seen that these problems are not insurmountable.
We have companies like Universal Leaf Phils. and Lionheart Farms who have proven that it is possible to work with the small farmers in the communities in which they operate and integrate them into their value chain. This is the essence of the Kapatid Angat Lahat program, which we are starting to put together with the help of government leaders like DILG Sec. Benhur Abalos and former Piddig mayor and now National Irrigation Administration head Eddie Guillen.
Once we get the best of the big-brother companies – and some of the biggest who are willing to help are in critical industries like tobacco, coconut, and sugar– they will help bring in not only the mentorship needed by our micro farmers, but definitely the market needed for the products.
There are so many success stories of how big-brother companies were able to help micro farmers, and it can be duplicated in the different LGUs. This is the public-private partnership that we are trying to put together. It will not be easy, it will take time, but I believe we are moving in the right direction by helping our small farmers.