Saturday, June 23, 2012

Kudos to the Makati Business Club

Putting up the following challenge the Philippines faces, like the MBC has done, is one of the clearest ways for Juan de la Cruz to recognize how much work we need to do: “Indeed, there is so much that must be done for trade and investment promotion. In the recent World Bank East Asia and Pacific Economic Update, foreign direct investments to the Philippines in 2011 totaled only $1.3 billion, compared to Vietnam’s $7.3 billion, Thailand’s $8.4 billion, Malaysia’s $10.8 billion and Indonesia’s $18.9 billion. Though its foreign direct investments increased from a measly $700 million in 2010, the Philippines’ 2011 numbers paled in comparison with the rest of the region.” [A working PPP, Philippine Daily Inquirer, June 1st, 2012, by Peter Angelo V. Perfecto, Executive Director, Makati Business Club.]

It is not a well-known fact that the Makati Business Club serves as the secretariat of several regional and bilateral business councils established to promote not only business and investment between the Philippines and other countries, but also the exchange of views on policies of mutual concern . . . The business councils that the MBC works with have members outside of the MBC family. In fact, the council chairs hope to get more interest and support from the private sector, so that by the coming together of more business leaders, so much more can be done to promote trade and investment . . . For sure, investment promotion work in the country is one public-private partnership (PPP) that seems to be moving full steam ahead”!

There are two related topics that the MBC article did not speak to but hopefully are in their crosshairs: (a) the efforts behind “Arangkada Philippines” and the 7 strategic industries the JFC (Joint Foreign Chambers) believe could bring $75 billion in foreign investments, appreciably raise national income and create millions of jobs; and (b) the restrictive economic provisions of the Constitution.

It is critical that the private sector indeed shares its expertise in pushing Philippine development – because national pride ought to push us to the head of the pack, not to accept being economic laggards. It is crucial that we define the vital few initiatives that we must push hammer and tongs – i.e., the private sector not only talks, as importantly, walks the talk . . . of “focus.” Thankfully the JFC has done the homework and it would do us a world of good if indeed the MBC would channel their efforts to getting the private sector single-minded.

And since the restrictive economic provisions of our Constitution have put us at a disadvantage versus our neighbors, it would do us a world of good if the MBC would champion efforts to revisit these provisions. There are two other barriers that foreign investors have raised about the Philippines: (a) our pathetic energy situation and (b) the continuing hold of half a dozen entities on the economy. It would do us a world of good if the MBC would step up efforts to promote good governance. Beyond the undertaking to fight bribery and corruption, the MBC could likewise undertake to fight crony capitalism! And to quote President Aquino, “there must be a level playing field”!

Society may equate business to narrow-minded fat cats when the reality ought to be that business can play a major role in economic development, institution building and in thinking discipline. For example, critical thinking is a daily business fare: “Critical and reflective thinking is not a lost art after all. It has remained for the more mature minds a process of thinking, questioning, problem-solving and decision-making – an approach which borders along the original idea of John Dewey. It examines things, events, circumstances and topics. It reflects on issues and practices – local, national, international. It asks not only what happened, but why. As such, critical thinking should not just be relegated to the background.” [Nilo E. Colinares, Ed.D; Educators Speak: REFLECTIVE TEACHING, Manila Bulletin, 3rd Jun 2012.] 

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