Full of spine-tingling conviction, billionaire-turned-politician Donald J. Trump uttered those two words during his inaugural speech as the 45th President of the United States in Capitol Hill, Washington D.C., at 12 noon on Friday (1 a.m. Saturday, Manila time), and immediately repeated the phrase for emphasis, practically setting the tone of his governance policy.
For sure, the capitalists who have been making a killing in the outsourcing industry lost sleep over those pronouncements because it was quite obvious once the phrase is put in context that Trump meant exactly the American jobs that have been outsourced to the biggest global players, namely China, India and the Philippines.
In the case of the Philippines, the now $30-billion business process outsourcing (BPO) industry has been fueling the economy in the last decade or so.
Somewhere in the middle of his speech Trump made it clear that his administration espouses a new beginning for America, a new line of approach in dealing with domestic and global issues. “We assembled here today are issuing a new decree to be heard in every city, in every foreign capital and in every hall of power. From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land. From this day forward, it’s going to be only America First—America First.
Something unpleasant for Philippine business this way comes?
Likely, because the Donald never minced words in letting his audience know exactly what he was carping about–-and it was not about the pomp and circumstance of his inauguration day. “Every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs will be made to benefit American workers and American families. We must protect our borders from the ravages of other countries making our products, stealing our companies and destroying our jobs.”
Driving his point, he made clear what he intends to do. “We will bring back our jobs. We will bring back our borders. We will bring back our wealth, and we will bring back our dreams. We will build new roads and highways and bridges and airports and tunnels and railways all across our wonderful nation.”
Maybe not only the outsourcing industry stands to suffer, but also labor migration, more popularly known as the OFW phenomenon, as Trump capped off his dig on jobs. “We will get our people off of welfare and back to work rebuilding our country with American hands and American labor. We will follow two simple rules – buy American and hire American.
There is nothing new though about this latest pronouncements as Trump was simply being consistent with his campaign promises. The difference–-at that time–-was that Democratic bet Hilary Clinton was favored to win through most of the 18-month campaign in the run-up to the November 8 presidential election.
In fact in July 2016, a week after President Rodrigo Duterte took over the helm of government, Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno made a startling revelation: the newly formed Cabinet cluster in charge of the economy did not see a bright future for the BPO industry. It wasn’t because of Trump, but based on the assessment that artificial intelligence was bound to replace certain jobs.
AI may no longer be totally within the purview of science fiction, but it will probably take another decade for, say, a driverless car to take over the job of the good old taxi driver or an answering machine to replace the call center agent at an outsourced customer service department.
Yet, AI will depend on upgrades by human technicians to stay relevant.
As for the Filipino in the midst of what is happening now, history has proven time and again of a people getting back up on its feet over the vagaries of natural and man-made crises as resiliency of mind, heart, body and spirit always win in the end.