THE Filipino people are worth investing in. And the current administration is actually trying to level the playing field for business. Many cities have successfully reduced the number of permits needed, as one of the thrusts of the administration is the ease of doing business. The economy is reaching new heights, averaging a stable 6 percent growth, strong domestic demand, and stable inflation rates. In the recent decade, more and more Filipinos could uplift the quality of life of their families without having the need to work abroad. One of the most aspiring goals of the country is to be able to provide jobs to returning Filipino expatriates and still be able to provide a decent living for their families.
But government officials, private sector leaders, and the citizens should not be misled into thinking that economic growth is the goal of the country. Far from it. Economic growth is only one of the many important indicators of an improving country. For other economists and national leaders, they turn towards education, innovation, health care, high life expectancy, and low poverty. Concepts such as the Human Development Index and Gini coefficient, among others, have become complimentary to economic growth.
But I think other important measures of national success that are not readily considered by many leaders are giving each Filipino the capacity to dream and achieve it, more time for leisure, and more time spent with the family. Another important measure is the opportunity to walk around the city and feel safe, to spend time in parks and social areas, and to see beautiful artworks, buildings, and the beauty of the natural environment. There should also be balance among social equity, environmental sustainability, economic growth, culture and heritage, and spirituality.
Why invest in the work of the Filipino?
WHEN love is the motivation of work, the work becomes a gift for two people: the intended beneficiary of the service or output, and the loved ones who depend in the income of the work. In this sense, work is both an act of prayer and selflessness.
A few months ago, when I met again the founder and Dharma Master Cheng Yen of the Tzu Chi Buddhist International Foundation, she reminded me that good work needs to have both skills and the heart. In her mission, the master encourages the more fortunate ones to look at success as increasing one’s capacity to offer charity and love. Work as a form of service, and success as a gift to be able to give more. The Catholic saint, Josemaria Escriva, the founder of the Opus Dei, reminds us that “work is a form of prayer” and good work is a form of sanctification.
This year the Tzu Chi Foundation founder and Dharma Master as well as donors and volunteers from 96 countries appointed Palafox Associates and Palafox Architecture Group to be the architects, planners, engineers, designers for a hospital, a university, and three schools in Kathmandu, Nepal, after the earthquake that devastated the nation in 2015. We were instructed to design the buildings and structures to last a thousand years to benefit 40 generations in a city vulnerable to catastrophic earthquakes.
I wish to share this outlook on work because I believe this is the kind of work ethic that many Filipinos can offer. The motivation of the Filipino is their families and this motivation makes them one of the most hardworking in the world. Filipinos are passionately family-oriented. That is why their work is often driven by both necessity and love.
I believe one of the reasons for the success of the information technology and business process outsourcing industry is the willingness to work difficult hours, the capacity to carry on conversation, and the willingness to be trained and to learn.
Another great advantage of the Filipinos is their tri-lingual capability: they can speak English, Filipino, and a hometown dialect. In other schools and universities, students are required to learn Mandarin, Japanese, Spanish, or French, among others. There are studies that say that people who know more languages are able to think more critically. And currently the ability to speak both American English and British English is one of the most important economic driver for the knowledge industry.
With this, I believe the Department of Education and the Department of Science of Technology have a bigger role to play in the coming years to spur socio-economic development. But I am slowly seeing an emphasis on research, people training, and good skills training. It is important to note that the technological breakthroughs in South Korea, Japan, China and the US and Europe is the merging of creativity and critical thinking. Our Tesda centers and colleges should encourage creativity and critical thinking application, which I think a handful of schools are doing.
I invite foreign investors to talk to local businessmen about the real business climate in the country today. The political noise as described by some media outlets focuses only on one of the many aspects that this administration is confronting. And I want to remind the media and influential writers that speculation and narrow perspectives go a long way in affecting national economic and social development. Interview more credible businessmen regarding their outlook on the Philippine economy.
All I can say is, the Philippines is open for business. Invest in the Filipino people. The country has a young population and strong local consumption, and the amount of work to be done is a promising prospect for investment and development.