Growing the economy from the bottom up

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MIKE WOOTTON

MIKE WOOTTON

Reading the social media and the more upmarket newspapers (like The Manila Times!), anybody could be forgiven for thinking that the state of the world’s affairs is pretty grim right now.

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Economies failing all over the place, even Germany having a difficult time and the Russian economy about to collapse, economies in South American nations which had been doing so well now slowing down. ISIS terrorizing and rampaging around Iran and Syria and at close quarters with Turkey. President Obama’s popularity problems on matters like immigration, and on and on all over the world—problems and more problems. There is a notable scarcity of good, heartening sort of news.

Even the inevitable win by Manny Pacquiao on Sunday, aside from many congratulatory posts, also brought out comments about his problems with the tax man and whether or not he had by now had too many prize fights.

Perhaps it’s just the way in which it comes across. After all, news is supposed to catch people’s attention and when it is bolstered up on social media, then these tales of woe circulate very effectively. And big business always gets the headlines.

So my take from this is that it is about time that a bit more space was given to good news and the Philippines must be a case in point. The seemingly endless Senate investigations appear to have gone quiet for the moment, thank goodness, so it’s a good time to dig up some good news; nice stories about people being compassionate and considerate to others, children succeeding and people being generally happy.

This is where Facebook scores quite highly; people post pictures of themselves having a good time, newborn babies and lots of sage quotations from famous people about improving outlooks on life and feeling better about yourself. Anyway, I came across somebody who is trying to provide startup help to young people who have a good micro business idea but who need funding and guidance on how to turn what is in their mind into a business that will grow from a one or two-person operation and create job opportunities for other people as well as, of course, economic activity.

This sort of thing is just what the Philippines needs but, alas, the chap I am in touch with was having difficulty finding people who wanted to start new micro enterprises despite the fact that there must be literally thousands of people out there who would dearly love to create their own business, as well as a national economy that would benefit greatly from the success of such entrepreneurial endeavors.

Indeed it is difficult to start a business here in the Philippines. The requirements alone are substantial and enough, in many cases, to just put people off the idea. But that should not be a reason for not trying, and if there is some older grey-haired mentor around to provide support when it all seems too difficult, then some people and their business ideas should be able to break through the bureaucratic barriers, and having done that, then work on their business and bring it to success. This sort of thing happens all over the world, particularly in less developed economies.

Youth Business International holds annual award ceremonies for outstanding entrepreneurs, such as Nimali Gunawardana, a young lady from Sri Lanka who turned a $781 loan into an enterprise with a projected turnover of $39,000 making coco coir and coco husk chips employing underprivileged people from poor communities. Or Huaping Yang, who started his English language training centers in China with savings of his own of $1,600, from which he has developed a business with a $1.6 million turnover and is opening two or three new training centers every year.

What is interesting about these two prizewinning examples is that both entrepreneurs had already previously started businesses which failed. They wondered whether they should just give up and look for a job or try again. Both tried again and were successful on the second attempt; but of course they did have some help, they were given some initial funding and they had mentors to hold their hands, encourage them and guide them on their way.

There may well be other similar schemes operating here in the Philippines but in any event, you can’t have too many of them. Economies grow thanks to entrepreneurs, and the Philippines has very many of them with skills that can be turned into businesses with just a little bit of help.

Mike can be contacted at mawootton@gmail.com.

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