Let’s get in touch.
We’d love to hear from you.
I am now traveling around Europe and it is quite apparent that the world is not only ready to move on from COVID, it HAS moved on from COVID. Nobody is wearing a face mask; not in the airports, not in the restaurants, the parks, the shops. I attended a procession of the sick in Lourdes, and not even the sick – who were in wheelchairs – were wearing face masks.
This would be the nth time I have traveled abroad since the pandemic lockdown, and I can say with certainty that travel has returned to normal. You would be hard-pressed to find any country requiring proof of vaccination prior to entry. In fact, some airlines have dropped mask mandates for their passengers. You will still find some airline attendants and flight crew wearing face masks, but this is quite understandable since they interact with a lot of people in the course of their work.
In fact, I think it is a good idea that people in higher-risk professions should continue to exercise caution because aside from COVID, there are plenty of other contagious respiratory diseases out there that could put them at risk. For the rest of us, there are good habits from the pandemic that we should carry with us moving forward, such as regularly washing our hands, wearing face masks when ill or if immunocompromised and strengthening our immunity.
In general, though, I think Filipinos have learned to tread that delicate line between being careful and being confident. In fact, we even have the numbers to prove that there is growing optimism among Filipinos. According to a survey conducted last March by OCTA Research, 50 percent of the respondents across the country think that the economy will become better. That’s higher than the 46 percent optimism recorded in October 2022 when OCTA conducted the same survey.
Before leaving for Europe, I was contemplating whether or not to require testing for everyone who was to attend a party that I was going to host. However, after spending some time here in Europe, I realized that requiring these for social gatherings was the exception, not the rule. Some even see it as a dampener on the general mood.
Which leads me to relate this to a bigger scale. When the population sees that the situation is now more relaxed and that the country is no longer in a state of emergency, it translates to increased economic activity. When people can freely enter establishments without being asked to wear face masks or show their vaccination cards, it reinforces their confidence that, yes, things are going to get better. As the fear decreases, the quality of life increases.
Of course, many other factors affect consumer optimism; things like the general state of the economy and its various indicators like GDP growth, inflation and employment rates, as well variables like individual financial situations, the news and government policies. The reverse might also be true. I recall our GDP growth hitting 8.2 percent in the first quarter of 2022, buoyed by optimism in vaccines being available and our health system being more able to handle COVID cases. I believe this optimism has continued into the rest of 2022 and into 2023 as economies in our part of the world are seen to drive growth and the Philippines’ GDP growth continues to exceed analysts’ expectations.
We at Go Negosyo feel this optimism as we go about our entrepreneurship events across the country. Even during the pandemic, our small entrepreneurs kept reaching out to Go Negosyo for mentoring. They remained connected to other entrepreneurs and fed on their collective optimism, believing that things will eventually pick up and that they must be prepared to act once the economy opens. We know this because, after two years of conducting our Go Negosyo activities over online and social media platforms, our awareness was still at a high 68 percent across the Philippines in the first part of 2023. Even our advocacy of helping/supporting small businesses remains sustained in the awareness of the survey respondents, with almost all of them correctly identifying our mission.
I emphasize optimism as it relates to the economy because I believe it is a crucial trait among successful entrepreneurs. Optimists find opportunities even in hopeless situations. We see this in the breadth and variety of small businesses that were founded by MSMEs during the pandemic.
I also make a point of it because it has such a huge impact on two sectors on which many MSMEs are dependent: tourism and agriculture. It is these two sectors that can have the biggest contribution to our economic growth and where many jobs can be created. The men and women from the government and private sector who were given the important task of growing our tourism and agriculture sectors have a very difficult path ahead of them, and we should follow the President’s lead and support them. Their success is ultimately our success. It’s easy to be the naysayer in the room, to be the one that delights in others’ failures; but to be the optimist and soldier on, that requires courage.
As I tell many entrepreneurs: being an optimist brings good energy, not only to yourself but to others. When people feel positive and hopeful about the future, they are more likely to take risks and start new businesses. We need optimists because it is they who can help us believe that something better lies beyond the horizon. When my father said, “Yes, the Filipino can,” he had the right mindset: the mindset that can bring greater prosperity to all Filipinos.