No matter how difficult the challenges were in 2022, we Filipinos are always optimistic of the New Year which, as far as I can remember, has been consistently reflected in Pulse Asia’s yearly surveys of the people’s year-end sentiments.
As we are now learning to live with hundreds of COVID-19 variants, those difficult and scary times during the height of the pandemic seem like bad memories that we want to get over with and move on as quickly as possible.
Indeed, we have physically survived the pandemic but not without casualties and the deep economic scars that all of us must now work on in the years to come—a challenge where the business sector plays a leading role.
More than eight out of 10 Filipinos actually acknowledge the private sector’s crucial role in accelerating economic growth (Pulse Asia, September 2022), and 89 percent percent agree that the government and the private sector should engage in partnerships to sustain the country’s economic recovery.
The survey also identified: creating jobs, helping uplift the lives of Filipinos out of poverty, expanding livelihood opportunities, and improving healthcare services as the big problems that the private sector can address to boost the economy.
These sentiments relate well with the Marcos Jr. administration’s socioeconomic agenda which envisions a “robust economy, that is inclusive and resilient society.”
In particular, its medium-term agenda to promote investments, improve infrastructure, expand digital infrastructure, ensure energy security, increase employability, and establish livable and sustainable communities.
The key drivers of growth listed by the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA, December 2022) emphasizes the vital role of the business sector.
On the demand side, private sector investments for infrastructure programs through Public Private Partnership (PPP) modalities will be encouraged with investment-inducing reforms.
Boosting net exports through diversification of markets will expand opportunities for exporters.
On the supply side, boosting agriculture through farm mechanization, improved farm practices, greater diversification of products, and opening new markets and linkages to agri-business markets are key to the country’s food security.
NEDA pushes more support for the growth of industries by promoting trade and investments, competition and improving regulatory services with new emphasis in Research and Development technology and bolstering the linkage of science-based industries.
In addition, producing innovative MSMEs and startups will help boost over 90 percent of the business ecosystem many of which were worst hit by the economic crisis.
The service industries such as tourism enterprises will benefit from the holiday economics that will release the vacation itch pent-up by two years of travel restrictions.
The creative industry is also seen as a great potential where capacities should be built to break into the lucrative international scene.
Digitization of the transport sector, e-commerce adoption by MSMEs, increase access to funds and incentives for R&D and startup ecosystem development with more engagement with the academe will tap the rich Filipino brain pool that foreign tech companies are attracting.
The NEDA sees other cross-cutting strategies that apply to almost all sectors.
Encompassing to all is digitalization to evolve into a digital economy and digital government.
This links to connectivity which is about digital infrastructure and the digital readiness of the people to harness the benefits of a global digital economy.
With these strategies needing financial and expertise that government does not have, leveraging the role of the private sector by reconfiguring PPP to encourage large participation in housing, transport, and the digital sector is vital.
Engaging local governments as an equal partner in the development agenda will ensure that impact of these strategies will reach the community level.
According to leading think tank Stratbase ADR institute, while the Philippine government has been exerting efforts to attract more foreign investments, it is crucial to support both local and foreign investors to venture into manufacturing activities in the country that are not only export-oriented but can also cater to the needs of the growing domestic consumer base and reduce reliance on additional imports.
Most strategic will be the millions of job opportunities created that will support millions of households throughout the country.
While exports generate millions of dollars and helps the trade balance, boosting the growth of domestic-oriented enterprises will provide the needs of the greater population and eventually establish a sustainable ecosystem resilient to unforeseen crises.
It is clear the common denominator in all these plans and strategies for economic recovery is the private sector and the systemic digital transformation of all sectors in an environment of trust, symbiotic engagement, and good governance.
In this season of new hope, may we all work together and make 2023 the year when we finally leave behind the crises of the pandemic and accelerate momentum towards evolving into a new power player in the new global digital economy.
Happy New Year!