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It is my opinion that one of the attributes of a successful businessman is a strong sense of ownership of the enterprise. They are hands-on when it comes to running their businesses. This is not to say that they micro-manage; that is counterproductive because it slows down the decision-making process and undermines the confidence of delegates. I am talking about the strong sense of responsibility they have for the future of their business.
I see the same thing in the country’s economic team. They have demonstrated throughout their careers the same devotion to government service a business owner shows to his own company. They have taken on the challenge of seeing to the turnaround of the country’s economic fortunes, to make sure that the Philippines is no longer the laggard of the Asian economies.
What gives me optimism is the fact that the President, like a good leader, knows how to delegate. He runs the country like a company. As the head of a company myself, I recognize that I am no expert in all aspects of the business; that is why I hire people who are.
In the President’s case, he has assembled a very competent and well-respected economic team – among them Fred Pascual at the DTI, Arsenio Balisacan at the NEDA and Ben Diokno at the DOF. They are veterans of several administrations and various economic cycles. He has also wisely decided that he needed someone to align all the efforts and catalyze into action the plans for the country’s economic development. For this job, he chose Deck Go to become the Special Assistant to the President for Investment and Economic Affairs. It will be Deck’s job to ensure the smooth integration and implementation of the government’s investment and economic policies and programs.
This comes at a good time because headwinds are tapering. At the height of the Russia-Ukraine war, the talk was all about the skyrocketing prices of commodities. But look at things now: commodity prices are down and consumer spending is up.
Forex remittances continue to be a driver toward the last quarter of 2023. OFWs are a formidable force and that is why we at Go Negosyo pour so much effort into enticing them to put up businesses here. They, much like foreign investors, need to be reassured that competent people are at the helm, and that the Philippine economy remains resilient.
This is a valuable lesson we business veterans try to share with MSMEs. There will be headwinds, but those who are prepared will be able to sail through them. The winds blow different ways and at different times; one just needs to adjust the sails and ride it out. The important thing is to have the fortitude and the knowledge to power through the difficulties.
While there are things that are beyond our control, like the weather and war, things eventually return to normal and settle down. We saw that in the prices of wheat and sugar. We know this first-hand in RFM, when, after commodity prices skyrocketed, they reached a peak and started coming down – enough to restore our margins and improve our profits. With stable prices and a sense of stability restoring confidence, businesses can move on and even invest in expansion, creating jobs for more peopWith this confidence among the bigger companies, brisk business among the MSMEs cannot be far behind. Sari-sari stores, for example, benefit from stronger consumer goods companies as a robust logistics system and competition among the big manufacturers benefit them in terms of more competitive prices and retailer incentives.
I believe this also manifests in how well the PSAC (Private Sector Advisory Council) is working together. The PSAC was set up early in the President’s term to advise the President on jobs, health, digitalization, infrastructure, agriculture and tourism. Today we are seeing the synergy growing and maturing. Our team in the jobs sector, all fellow top businessmen, have gotten into the groove of things and we are all fully engaged in the job at hand.
For some of us, the PSAC tasks go beyond recommendatory and extend into execution. I, for example, have Go Negosyo and the MSMED Council, and the PSAC Jobs recommended the creation of the Private Sector Jobs & Skills Corp. (PCORP) to create a skilled workforce.
These are all initiatives of the private sector. Nobody told them to do it. But being in the private sector has taught us a lesson or two: every project must be seen to its completion. To get things done, you don’t stop at giving recommendations; instead, you have to be part of the solution. And to make sure things are sustained, you build the structures that make it possible – even easy – to implement. These are real-world solutions acquired through years of practice and even mistakes. Proposals are only as good as the paper they’re written on; follow-through is the key.
And this is where that sense of ownership I mentioned earlier is so important. We must all feel that we have a stake in the country’s future. Perhaps businessmen feel it more acutely because every fluctuation and every disruption is magnified and is directly quantifiable in the daily reports that we receive. Perhaps the policymakers feel the repercussions more deeply because they know where these come from and how they could have been headed off.
The PSAC will play a big part in how our economic policies move forward because they will provide support and ensure that the recommendations are implemented. I work together with the secretaries of the DTI, the DepEd and the DAR and I can say that partnership with the government is important in making sure that the program implementation pulls through as envisioned. Without this cooperation, we will all be throwing punches in the air.
There are so many opportunities for the Philippines. Organizations like the ADB, the World Bank and the IMF remain optimistic and expect the country’s economy to be among the fastest-growing in the region. The numbers show that we are experiencing broad-based growth, and a young, digital-savvy population will be our edge.
Opportunities are with us, but we have to stay confident and reject the pessimism. The government cannot do it alone. We in the private sector must be there alongside them because we are all in this together.
With teamwork, 2024 will be a great year.