The critical role of the private sector and the synergies needed with government in terms of vision, priorities, a sense of urgency, and openness to transform the ecosystems of the country to pivot from mere survival to a more aggressive developmental mode was the clear consensus of the esteemed thought leaders from the public and private sector during the first panel discussions of Day 2 of the Pilipinas Conference 2022 last Tuesday.
Stratbase ADRi President, Prof. Victor Andres “Dindo” Manhit opened the day with his statement that pointed out “for the Philippine economy to bounce back amid global uncertainties and achieve sustainable long-term economic growth, the new administration must pursue an investment-driven strategy to transform the economy into one that is more resilient to shocks.”
Government must, therefore, create the stable and enabling business environment to make the Philippines the most viable, thereby the most attractive to both local and foreign investors.
No less than Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno graced the event delivering the keynote speech.
Among the points he discussed, he stated that to achieve the goal of creating high quality and green jobs, the government “will invest heavily in physical infrastructure, digitalization, and human capital development.”
He recognized that effective public-private coordination holds the key and that public-private partnership mechanisms will be harnessed to execute impactful projects consistent with development goals.
“The task of rebuilding the economy requires a concerted whole of nation effort so let us work together to deliver to the Philippine people a prosperous nation and a secure future,” Sec. Diokno said.
Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry President, Mr. George Barcelon, shared their resolutions presented to the President.
First is on achieving food security, urging the government to amend the agrarian reform law to increase the land retention limit from 5 to 24 hectares, implementing a debt condonation program for unpaid amortization of Agrarian Reform beneficiaries, and convert certificates of land ownership awards into simple titles.
Second is to reform PhilHealth into a science-based and transparent healthcare system and encourage Public Private Partnership in the implementation of the Universal Health Law.
Chairman of the Makati Business Club, Mr. Edgar Chua, spoke on the need invest in human capital to re-skill and upskill Filipino workers and to improve the education system with the onset of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
He said TESDA should update their course offerings and that DepED can strengthen the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) curriculum to produce workers with high value skills.
He warned about the looming power crisis due to inadequate capacity and the old, unreliable and inefficient power plants.
Further aggravated by the depleting Malampaya gas reserves and spikes in fuel prices because of the Russia Ukraine war, power shortages and high-power prices will slow economic growth and job creation.
Mr. Chua called for a seamless coordination between the business sector and government for renewable energy facilities which can be built with much faster than thermal plants and are already very competitive relative to the traditional fuel for power plants.
Mr. Rogelio “Babes” Singson, President of the Management Association of the Philippines raised policy concerns that are needed for public and private collaboration to work.
“Clearly define the purpose and objectives of the different public and private partnership projects and privatization projects of the government. It’s not a one size fits all.”
He cited as examples the Malampaya project which raised funds for government in contrast to airports and toll roads which is to provide public service using private sector technical and financial capabilities.
He also pointed out delays caused by the slow delivery of government responsibility, particularly in the delivery of right of way in toll roads power, water supply, and the like.
Former Presidential Adviser on Flagship Programs and Projects, Mr. Vivencio “Vince” Dizon, for his part believes that “the role of government is to get things done, and to get things moving.”
Though the “Build, Build, Build” vision started to change decades of neglected public infrastructure, Mr. Dizon sees that the Philippines will “need at least 30 years of continuous focus and investment in infrastructure to achieve what our neighbors throughout the region and throughout all other developed countries in the world have achieved” and acknowledged how PPPs can be unleashed for fast results citing the 12-billion-peso Clark International Airport now fully operational.
To build the momentum of economic recovery, the common denominator with all the speakers is the urgency for digitalization across all sectors of society which presents its own set of challenges in addressing human capital and digital infrastructure readiness gaps.
The pandemic practically pushed the country into embracing digital technologies to be indispensable to the continuity of the economy and individual survival which further highlights how government must seriously invest in systemic digital transformation.
There’s a wealth of learnings from the Pilipinas Conference 2022 that I highly recommend you check out at the Stratbase ADR Institute Facebook page.