Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Part 5 of series

The Business of Making Revolutions Succeed
Let's Start the Revolution of the Filipino Youth Part V

The revolution for CHAracter CHAnge needed in our country today calls for an actionable plan on how to address the economic problems that our country is currently facing. I take note of 4 Little Things we can do from Alexander L. Lacson's book "12 Little Things Every Filipino Can Do To Help Our Country," namely, the 2nd Little Thing - Whenever you buy or pay for anything, always ask for an official receipt; 3rd Little Thing - Don't Buy Smuggled Goods. Buy Local. Buy Filipino.; 9th Little Thing - Pay your employees well; and lastly, the 10th Little Thing - Pay your taxes.

Of the four Little Things I cited, I believe the 10th Little Thing is the most important in addressing the economic problems we are facing today. As Alex wrote in the book, taxes are the lifeblood of the government, they pay for our schools, our public school teachers, and many more. If we can ensure that everyone pays the right amount of taxes on time, it can go a long long way in helping our government address the budget deficit and increase spending on important projects. It will also help reduce our reliance on foreign debt and aid assistance.

A couple of years ago, the world's richest man, Bill Gates said "Businesses can both be an agent of social change and source of personal fulfillment." That is why it is important for us Filipinos to support our local industries, locally made or manufactured products, and local businessmen/entrepreneurs. Businesses help create the opportunities for economic development and provides great employment openings. That is why it is equally important for businesses to pay their employees well for it ensures economic growth can be felt by every sector of society.

As Manny V. Pangilinan (MVP), chairman of the PLDT group, said in one of his many speeches "We have never been and never will be just owners of companies. We are also managers and value creators." Thus, businesses help create and distribute wealth among the people. This revolution then should also push for greater collaboration between the businesses in the country and the government, and with the academe as well.

There are plenty of local companies that have become multinationals today like San Miguel Corporation, already the largest food and beverage conglomerate in Southeast Asia. There's Jollibee Foods Corporation which operates the Chowking, Greenwich, and Delifrance brands as well. There's PLDT and Smart Communications, which MVP helped transform to become Asia's trendsetter in mobile service technologies. There's the Ayala Group which counts among its subsidiaries leaders in their own respective fields like: Globe Telecom, Manila Water, Innove Communications, Ayala Land, Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI), among others. There's Universal Robina Corporation (URC), fast becoming a leading food and beverage conglomerate in Southeast Asia as well, which belongs to the JG Summit Holdings with sister companies Cebu Pacific, Robinsons Department Store, Robinsons Land and others. There's United Laboratories (UNILAB), probably Southeast Asia's biggest homegrown pharmaceutical company which dominates the local pharmaceutical market with a commanding 20% market share over the second company which controls just 9%. There's the SM group under Henry Sy Sr. which has transformed Philippine society by enriching the shopping experience of everyday consumers. There's Metrobank, the country's biggest banking firm which have continuously helped Philippine companies finance their operations and expansion plans.

There are a host of other Philippine companies that provide either products or services that truly have Filipino roots or are partly foreign-owned but manufacture their products locally like Monde Nissin, Del Monte, Aboitiz, Petron, Mercury Drug Corporation, ABS-CBN, GMA Network, Asia Brewery, Legaspi Oil and others. There is also Figaro Coffee Systems which is promoting the barako coffee, a distinct coffee variety of the Philippines. Let us hope it will usher in an era of growth in the farming industry.

The economic fundamentals of the country needs to be overhauled as well. Looking at the TOP 1000 corporations in the country today, too many of them are either owned or controlled by foreign multinationals or investors. We need to truly build that culture of entrepreneurship among Filipinos and change mindsets that we can be owners/creators of great businesses as well. Singapore, Malaysia and South Korea have done this with the push from their governments. Japan and the United States of America are probably the best examples of a nation that believes in creating value in products and services for international trade. They are the 2 largest economies in the world because of the number of entrepreneurs in their countries and majority of their biggest corporations are homegrown. In that way, profits are mostly reinvested in their home countries other than siphoned off elsewhere.

To change our fortunes on this, the government must drastically reduce red tape especially on the process of setting up new businesses. The government through the Department of Trade and Industry should exhaust all means in overhauling the registration process and other regulatory requirements for setting up of new businesses. And the government through the Department of Education and other line agencies should also do its best to promote an entrepreneurial culture among Filipinos.

The GoNegosyo project of Jose Concepcion Jr. is a fitting example of the private sector taking the lead in ensuring that Filipinos learn to become employers rather than employees. The Entrepreneur Magazine published by Summit Publishing is also a great tool in this process of national transformation. But more can be done especially on the side of the national and local governments.

I have seen how many of our governors, mayors and barangay captains use government resources for unimportant and unnecessary projects. Instead they should channel these resources to entrepreneur-building programs, and these officials should start managing their offices like businesses as well. The national government through the DTI should come up with a national LGU Contest on Entrepreneurship and Business Friendliness by awarding the provinces, cities and barangays that best promote business-friendly policies and laws, and reduces the process time of setting up of new businesses.

All these can be done during the remaining three years of the present administration. By subscribing to this philosophy, this government inevitably leaves a prosperous Philippines when its term ends in 2010. As the old Chinese proverb used to say "Give a man a fish and he eats for a day. Teach a man how to fish and he eats for a lifetime."

It is also good to note of a program started by the Focolare movement some years back on how businesses should participate in true nation-building and act as catalysts for social change. The program is called Economy of Communion. It is an ambitious campaign but one that I believe is achievable in every locality and in our lifetime. Under this set-up, profits of associated companies are divided into three parts: 1) a part is reinvested in the company, 2) another is shared with the poor, and 3) the last portion is used to create a new culture in business. Companies that join are grouped together in a sort of economic zone set-up and their foundation are deeply rooted within the local communities where they operate.

I believe as devout Catholics and Muslim Filipinos, we ought to renew how we do business and look back on the teachings of Jesus Christ and Prophet Mohammad. Only by living out our faith even in our working lives can we truly achieve national freedom. Let's Start the Revolution of the Filipino Youth!

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