"The private sector has consistently proven its value during national emergencies."
We are again on Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) mode. This is the second summer when most of us had to forego our traditional Holy Week break activities to dodge the now more virulent variants of COVID-19 that, according to the daily briefings, is causing what is now the most alarming increase in daily infections in the region, along with the many gaps in the government’s pandemic response.
Economic experts have warned that we cannot afford an ECQ relapse as this will definitely cause severe setbacks to our already weak economy. Comparative quarterly Gross Domestic Product growth rate (4th quarter 2020) with ASEAN neighbors shows our country lagging behind at -8.3 percent. Doing much better are: Thailand (-4.2 percent), Singapore (-3.8 percent), Malaysia (-3.4 percent), Indonesia (-2.2 percent), and Malaysia (4.4 percent).
With daily COVID 19 infections hovering at around 10,000 new cases a day and extended lockdowns striking another blow that will cause more economic displacement, the country’s top industry leaders are rallying the private sector to unite and mobilize as a driving force that will reverse this deep recession.
The recent virtual roundtable discussion organized by the Stratbase ADR Institute entitled, “The Private Sector as the Reliable Partner for Economic Recovery” gathered the country’s biggest business groups who expressed pointed insights on some problematic gaps in the pandemic response initiatives and how government should embrace the inherent assets and capacities of the private sector as a positive intervenor to fight the pandemic and for digital transformation.
Ayala Corporation Chairman Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala highlighted the private sectors’ strength in resources, ingenuity, energy, and performance management discipline as a crucial complement to government for co-developing new ways to deliver critical aid and other forms of support to stakeholders.
He said, “If we will act in unison, work together, join forces and focus on some key areas where we can all make a difference, there’s absolutely no doubt in my mind that the private sector can be a massive generator of goodwill in our country and a solution to many of our problems.”
A notable initiative is the ongoing 5G Hackathon, so far, the biggest nationwide programming competition organized by Globe Telecom in partnership with DLSU’s Animo Labs for students and professionals. It aims to produce real-life solutions on how 5G technologies will improve education, health care, livelihood, retail, manufacturing, logistics, e-commerce, disaster risk management, sustainability, asset and resource management, and transportation.
Expressing concerns in the quality of Philippine education, the chairman of the Makati Business Club, Mr. Edgar Chua said, “If our youth are not properly equipped and nourished, the sweet spot in reality will be a sore spot as they will not be able to realize their full potential and support the country’s development plan.”
As an example, Philippine Chamber of Commerce Inc. (PCCI) President, Amb. Benedicto Yujuico discussed how their Innovation Center is training the youth in technology to nurture a young and educated population that will have a competitive advantage to contribute to the national goal of ending poverty by 2040.
For his part, Stratbase ADRi Chairman Amb. Albert del Rosario sees this crisis as “an opportunity to overhaul the flawed structures of government bureaucracies to become a digitally revitalized ecosystem of efficient processes and well-managed resources.”
Neighboring economies and other developing nations are fast in realizing this and are way ahead in building state funded digital infrastructure to digitally enable their whole ecosystem.
More than a year into this pandemic, it should be obvious to both government and the private sector that the old manual, paper based, slow bureaucratic systems should be overhauled to more efficient, non-face to face, secure, and most of all, transparent solutions offered by digital technologies. The exponential growth of online transactions will create a demand for more broadband services that can only be delivered with a robust and extensive digital infrastructure. This will need the agility, high level of expertise, innovativeness, and developmental drive of private enterprises.
Stratbase ADRi President Dindo Manhit believes that the private sector is key in creating a more sustainable and inclusive economic recovery thru 8 strategic initiatives: 1) Address inequality and ensure livelihood by creating jobs, 2) Reduce the digital divide thru digital acceleration, 3) Address climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, 4) Help strengthen health system, 5) Push for public private collaboration driven by public interest, 6) Focus and advocate for stakeholder capitalism, 7) Create access to opportunity; quality education and social protection for all, and 8) Demand transparency and accountability in governance by encouraging an entrepreneurial state and smart local governments.
The private sector has consistently proven its value during national emergencies. Now, we need the private sector’s digital business agility to spearhead our transition to a digitally revitalized economy.