PEOPLE NO LONGER LAUGHÂ when we claim the Philippines can become a First World country in 20 years. We are so used to being a basket case of Asia, courtesy of Martial Law, that sometime we die laughing at the thought.
But we can be First World – a number of things we just have to do, first.
The invitation to attend the Bulong Pulungan Â of the Chamber of Commerce of the Philippine Islands with president Jose Yulo Jr at the helm allowed us to distill and refine some of their thoughts on their so-called “Five Pillars” needed for RP’s ascendancy.
Woefully, the nation did a free fall from being No 1 in Per Capita Income (average income per Filipino) in the 1960’s to No 5 in 2015. Vietnam, a victim of a recent civil war, is nearing our rear -ready to dislodge us .
How do we improve Per Capita Income? Today, Malaysia has a per capita income of US$8,000 and the Philippines US$3,000- we starting at a very low base. Yulo argues that even if Malaysia grows Â GDP by only 4% and the Philippines at a higher 6%, this will result in Malaysia have a new per capita income of US$8,320 while the Philippines still way below at US$3,120.
It will take years, therefore, before the country can overtake Malaysia. Even that calculation ignores the fact that the country has one of the highest population growth rates in Asia-and population is the denominator in computing GDP per capita income. What catching up must we do?
Education is key -where Yulo says, we should aim to have 25% post graduates from our students -coming out of Â a high quality K-12 and college education. The Filipino should also speak tri-lingual (perfectly)- English, a dialect (Tagalog) and one more language. (Chinese , we would dare say).
The country should open schools Â full foreign ownership here and give incentives for learning institutions concentrated on science and information technology.We have too many lawyers and accountants.
To prepare ourselves for a First World status- every Filipino should strive to be the best in his field- best plumber, carpenter, driver or graphic artist or make-up artist so that we can be paid as handsomely as they are in countries like the USA. Dignity of labor must be Â brought back.
Yulo argues the country should try to emulate Singapore where it pays the highest talent to work for government. Of course, it goes without saying that integrity, patriotism and diligence are there. In this country, government jobs are not competitive leading to corruption and moonlighting. (President Rody Duterte, however, will be the first to shoot down the theory of poverty as an excuse to do crime.)
Many would disagree with their theory Â that the BPO (Business Processing and Outsourcing) Â is merely a “stop gap” measure and that the “real deal” is to go to manufacturing. Â Which brings us back to the issue of power cost with the country having the most expensive electricity in Asia.
“We cannot even manufacture ballpens” due to high cost of manufacturing ( from 14% to 40% of production cost) is their argument why we should reconsider reactivating the Bataan Nuclear Plant. Â It is safe and inexpensive.And will take only US$1-Billion to bring it back to shape.
There are too many “add-ons” to our current electric bills-just check it out.Â Â
On the matter of infrastructure- there is unanimity in voices stating the Philippines must rev up investments there. Now the new government is pegging infrastructure budget to 5% from the past’s 3% of GDP just to catch up with our ASEA neighbors in the next years.
More than quantity is the quality of our infrastructure that should proceed from the valid assumption that we are along the typhoon belt and within the line of fire , susceptible to earthquakes. Â The new cities should learn from the ecological and congestion nightmare that Metro Manila has become.
We are Â also an archipelagic nation and the Marcos government did the right example by connecting the islands of Leyte and Samar by San Juanico bridge. That concept of connectivity by land among islands is the answer to relatively high cost of sea travel. Â Much has to be done. The Cebu-Bohol “Friendship Bridge” is a step in the right direction.
Tourism is a crown jewel that we have not fully exploited to the hilt as Malaysia, Spain, Greece and Turkey have. We have yet to transform the magic of our wondrous tour sites into dollars and cents trough tourist traffic volume. Tourism is also a countryside Â income- dispersal industry.
Yulo postulates that there has to be a “Paradigm Shift” in mining where raw ore exportation should now be replaced by 80% value-added derivatives of the mines and only 10% ore to be exported Â . It goes without saying they shall comply with all environmental do’s and dont’s .
Finally, old-fashion nationalism should be brought back to vogue.
Control of industries must be pro-Filipino first and last. The chamber cited the case of Malaysia where the Â government mandates new foreign investors to reserve a couple of seats in the board by what they term as “Bumiputras”. In the covenant ,after 15 years the Bumitras are to control 51% of the firm. Will this work in our effort to attract FDI (foreign direct investments)?
Finally, Yulo called for a mindset that ushers Filipino-owned companies successfully into a global market citing a Jollibee as an example. Â To think that this Â i at pars just a Filipino ingenuity of improving over some aspects of the multinational McDonalds.
As the New Dispensation tries to clean the slate for peace and order as a business environment, simultaneous to that should be other economic and business efforts to place the nation back at par with Â our ASEAN beighbors.
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