First, a look back at 2020.
2020 was unexpectedly a year of severe and multiple crises.
We had and have a health crisis.
The COVID-19 pandemic hit the world and the Philippines like a giant sledgehammer. Global statistics show over 20 million COVID-19 cases, over 350,000 deaths everywhere, comparisons with the 1918 Spanish flu, and fears of a deadlier second wave.
End-December Department of Health indicators report 439,796 cases, a 92.77-percent recovery rate, a 5.28-percent active rate (25,024 cases) and a 1.95-percent death rate (9,244 deaths).
Sadly, an Asean Post graph shows the Philippines as second worst in Asia, with the dubious distinction of the longest lockdown in the world.
Who would have thought that “staying alive” would be the best option in 2020?
We had and have an economic crisis.
Global Source Partners report a 10-percent drop in gross domestic product (GDP) in the first three quarters of 2020, and Oxford and Haver point to our worst recession ever.
Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) analysts’ GDP growth expectations for the Philippines went from one of the highest at the start of the year to the lowest in Asean by end year.
Worse, the Economist, in its Dec. 15 issue, opined that the Philippine economy will be “the most vulnerable to COVID-19’s long term effects from 2019 to 2025.”
Fortunately, thanks to the able stewardship of Finance Secretary Carlos “Sonny” Dominguez III and Bangko Sentral Governor Benjamin Diokno, we remain financially strong as a country. In fact, Fitch Ratings reaffirmed the Philippines BBB investment grade rating with stable outlook.
Who would have thought that Ebitdac (Earnings before interest, depreciation, amortization and coronavirus) would become an appropriate accounting measurement in 2020?
We had and have an environmental crisis.
Cries for climate change have been upgraded to climate crisis and even climate emergency, as we enter a critical decade to reverse carbon emission deterioration or face an unlivable planet. Unfortunately, the Philippines is ranked third worldwide in disaster vulnerability, and the year-end floods of typhoons “Rolly” and “Ulysses” were living testaments of the effects of climate change on our country.
Appropriately, the Management Association of the Philippines (MAP) selected Federico “Piki” Lopez as its “Management Man of the Year 2020” for his role as a Clean Energy champion.
Education crisisWe had and have an education crisis.
We are facing a learning crisis that threatens the growth trajectory of the nation. Prepandemic, our students were already falling behind in reading, math, science and 21st century skills. Three outside international assessors ranked us last (Programme for International Student Assessment 2018, 78 economies, and Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study 2019, 64 economies) or bottom half (Southeast Asian Primary Learning Metrics 2019, 6 participating Asean countries). What more in pandemic 2020, when schools were downgraded to remote learning, unequal Wi-Fi, and 2.7 million unenrolled students?
Social justice crisis
We had and have a social justice crisis.
The Social Weather Stations reported that in a nationwide poll conducted from Nov. 21 to 25, 48 percent, or 12 million families, rated themselves as “poor,” and another 36 percent “borderline poor.”
Unfortunately, inequality reigns, as the poor and small businessmen have been hit hardest by the health, economic, environmental, education and social justice crises described earlier.
Fortunately, our silver lining is that we have a strong and smoothly functioning Management Association of the Philippines Board, committee chairmen and 1,000 plus members.
MAP’s 2020 Board led by the dynamic and articulate Atty. Francis Lim had a superlative output-driven year: more activities, more members, more fund raising, more national issue statements, and more influence in the business and national community.
Your 2021 board’s mission and vision is to take this to the next level with a main theme of “The Great Reset: Leading for the common good.”
In keeping with the five crises mentioned earlier, our main thrusts will be to: safely reopen the economy, ESG (environmental, social justice and governance) and member benefits via best practice sharing.
We have organized ourselves with nine capable and dedicated governors handling 26 committees clustered into three main groups:
Our committee chairs are a carefully chosen mix of some experienced, some fresh thinking chairpersons who will lead for the common good.
2021 activities will revolve around:
We foresee a first semester of mostly Zoom meetings, but hope to return to limited face to face events, particularly for the major conferences in the second half of the year.
Initial 2021 MAP policy directions
Allow me to close with a few initial thoughts on some policy prescriptions that we will push.
Heath is wealth, and we thank Secretary Dominguez and the government for significantly funding vaccinations for our front-liners and the less fortunate.
To help our members safely reopen their businesses and the economy, MAP itself will focus on how best to secure vaccines for its (smaller) member-companies who are not included in the current government priority lists.
We will also advocate public transportation that provides mobility that is essential for the economy and society to function properly and be productive.
For economic, our main immediate goal is push for the passage of the Create (Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises) Bill which will reduce corporate income taxes to 20 percent for smaller businesses, establish 10-year sunset periods for specific incentive industries, and provide a much needed P250-billion stimulus to safely reopen the economy.
MAP is joining at least 30 business organizations in signing the joint statement of support for Create and the joint letters to House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco and Senate President Vicente Sotto III, urging them to act quickly on the enactment of Create.
For the medium term, we will push certain policy recommendations of a MAP-UAP (University of Asia and the Pacific) study commissioned in 2020. In particular, we wish to promote Ease of Doing Business government digitization efforts and improved public information communications and technology connectivity.
For environmental, we will work toward an appropriate policy prescription. MAP supports the development of a natural capital accounting bill to measure physical units of terrestrial and marine resources of the country, as well as three environmental projects in Occidental Mindoro, Laguna and Batangas.
We shall also balance these with data-based analysis of our energy security and water security situation.
For education, we will collaborate with PBED (Philippine Business for Education Development) to highlight the learning crisis that the Philippines is in today, particularly at a time of unequal access among our learners, and the lack of a clear plan to bring our students back to school safely. If not urgently addressed, we may end with a South African university message that closes with the sobering words, “The collapse of education is the collapse of a nation.”
But most of all, we should push out of our comfort zone, and pay equal attention to social justice issues, and to lead for the common good.
We need jobs—wholesale and retail trade, agriculture and fisheries, and construction make up 50 percent of total jobs, and we have to reopen and revive these sectors to alleviate poverty.
We need food—particularly for the 48 percent self-perceived poor families, either through public sector Bayanihan Act stimulus programs for the poor or private sector revival of business, economic and payroll activities.
We need values formation—we need to work on changing attitudes and behaviors of Filipino youth and the common man in the street, in order to achieve a meaningful and sustainable change in society.
In closing, I would like to appeal to the 1,000 plus strong MAP membership to support your board, and to share member best practices to help each other and our national community.
We are a vibrant, purposeful, and well-meaning national private sector association, and together, we can make a significant impact on the health, economic, environmental, education and social justice fronts. We are also a constructive partner of government, and a helpful supporter of value-adding nongovernmental organization causes. —CONTRIBUTED INQ
This article was lifted from the inaugural speech delivered by the author as the president of the Management Association of the Philippines for 2021. The author is chair of Far Eastern University (email@example.com).