Digital economy is key to inclusivity

PHOTO CAPTION: Joining ASEAN BAC Philippines chairman Joey Concepcion are (from left) Marcus Wallenberg, chairman of SEB, SAAB Group and Foundation Asset Management; Y. Bhg. Tan Sri Datum Wira Azman Hj. Mokhtar, managing director of Khazanah Nasional; Mikael Damberg, minister for enterprise and innovation of Sweden; and Dr. Vu Tien Loc, chairman of Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Every time I am invited to speak in conferences, I always make sure to share the vision that we have for our country. Part of it is sharing the realities of the Philippines’ situation today.

Just last Tuesday, I was honored to be part of the Sweden-Southeast Asia Business Summit held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The conference gathered more than 600 Swedish companies composed of small to large sized enterprises which are present in Southeast Asia. The summit provided a platform for Sweden and ASEAN countries to discuss and share relevant business information and opportunities.

During my talk, I shared how poverty, still one of biggest problems worldwide, has affected growth and progress in many countries, including the Philippines. In fact, in the 10 ASEAN-member countries, at least half of it is considered experiencing poverty.

Poverty, unless solved, creates a lot of complications. In our country, admittedly, our drug problem is so massive that it has hampered a lot of civilians. Many families have been destroyed because of drug addiction. And until now, it is still an ongoing process for our government to reduce, and hopefully, totally eliminate drug abuse.

Poverty, if not addressed, creates insurgencies. In some areas of the Philippines, insurgencies are still present like what recently happened in Marawi. Although very small, it poses a great threat moving forward.

As we look around the world today, poverty causes all of these issues. But poverty is a two-pronged sword. For some it is a problem, but for others, it is the greatest motivator to succeed in life. It is what pushes a person to strive and do his best.

Look at China, once upon a time, they were a struggling economy, but today, they are one of the greatest economies. The Philippines is somehow headed to that direction. Our poverty, in fact, has led to more entrepreneurs.

Today, as I serve the government by helping President Duterte, I believe that the key to a prosperous country is inclusivity.

One of our strengths is our labor sector. We are one of the largest exporters of people in the world. Additionally, next to India, we are the largest in the BPO industry. Poverty motivated them to go into these sectors and strive for a better life. The sacrifices of our OFWs have provided their families and their children with a better chance to move up in life. Because like China, we can use our labor force as a competitive advantage and eventually, even with poverty, our nation can change.

Although we had a fantastic economy during the previous administration, many Filipinos believe that they were not part of the growing economy. So when President Duterte run for the presidency, many people from the bottom of the pyramid looked up to him as someone who would address their concerns and help them scale up. Yes, he is unique. He is the strong handed leader that we need at this time. And since we are more than 100 million already, we need a stronger leadership that will implement discipline.

This is why I strongly promote prosperity for all. If we are to go through the numbers, only 0.4 percent of the business community, composed of large businesses control the country. In fact, to some extent, conglomerates control the destiny of 99.6 percent of MSMEs. Brick and mortar businesses have to pass through supply chains, malls and shopping centers. And we dictate who should be in their market and who should not be. That is the kind of control that we, big businesses have.

But that landscape is changing. Today, with the onset of the digital economy, it liberated MSMEs in this kind of traditional set-up. Through the 3Ms (Money, Market and Mentorship) which I have been advocating, it provides a formula on how we can help MSMEs. Of course, mentorship provides a pathway for MSMEs to be successful. To complete their road to success, it must be coupled with the access to market and money.

We have digital marketplaces such as Lazada, Shopee, Amazon and Alibaba, which allows MSMEs to bypass traditional market and reach a wider market. Digital payment solutions and funding are also being developed for MSMEs.

Digital economy has paved the way for everyone, most especially MSMEs, to play with large corporations. It is the game changer which gives MSMEs a greater chance to succeed. Rich economies, large companies, and privileged people must embrace inclusivity and help those who are at the bottom of the pyramid.

With these kinds of collaboration, we are creating better relationships through trust. And when trust is evident, we are on our way to a greater community.