Recently, the International Monetary Fund stated that developing countries such as the Philippines need to create more jobs to achieve a more inclusive growth—in the face of aging populations and globalization. This was highlighted in a report titled “Jobs and Growth: Analytical and Operational Considerations to the Fund.”
With more than 200 million unemployed people globally, and youth and long-term unemployment very high in many countries, the IMF recommends the attention at the highest level in pursuing a proactive strategy.
The IMF report is especially relevant to the Philippines, where unemployment is highest in the region and where 30 percent of the population remains poor—a situation that has not improved since 2006 despite gains in the last two years in the economy. Jobseekers continue to form long queues in search of opportunities overseas—dreaming of being able to remit some funds to support the growing needs of their families.
Hence, the IMF suggests that urgent actions are needed to improve demand for labor—a “Jobs Strategy” must be developed as soon as possible. However, it does not mean that job-creation programs should be expanded by the government because their economic benefits are questionable and their costs, unsustainable. Traditional politicians in the past have undertaken many job-creation programs, especially around election time, such as clearing waterways of water lilies, patching of ruts on the roads, painting of fences near the airport of entry, summer training for students in government offices and others. We learned a lot of these emergency employment tricks from American politicians in the past, but they are now the biggest critics of this wasteful approach.
The private sector has already started implementing such a job strategy. The private sector effort is spearheaded by the Management Association of the Philippines, through the National Competitiveness Council, and supported by the economic cluster of the Cabinet led by the secretaries of the Departments and Trade and Industry, Finance and Budget, and the director general of the National Economic and Development Authority.
It is expected that private sector will create the vast majority of jobs in the economy as a result of increased competitiveness and clear focus on certain key sectors. The government’s role is to listen to the teams for their most urgent tailwinds policies as keys to success and to jointly address these needs.
Mel Salazar, the president of MAP, explained the theme’s main objective which was inclusive growth via competitiveness with integrity during his inaugural speech.
The proposed strategy for robust economic growth is focused on the potential winning sectors in agriculture, industry and services which will transform the Philippines into a global player both economically and socially. Never before has such a strategic development strategy been adopted by our government although it has proven to be an important element in the success of the tiger economies in Asia and other regions.
The resulting legacy from the significant upgrades that will be felt by the Filipinos after three years will make President Aquino the renaissance president—the one who led his country out of poverty to a quality life of values and patriotism.
That will be the time when there will be less Filipinos forced to work beyond our shores to keep the body and soul of his family together since there will be local options for livelihood and available employment even for the poor.
How can we achieve all of these changes when there are so many pending matters that still need to be resolved, such as infrastructure, electricity costs/availability, environmental issues, strong peso and many others. The secret is to prioritize, prioritize, prioritize and push for execution, execution, execution.
If we focus initially on no more than eight key winning sectors—the challenges will become manageable, simpler to tackle. At the same time, the goals of generating millions of jobs/livelihood and getting the $75 billion in foreign direct investments on the ground will be achievable. This is because investors will be assured of tailwinds in these sectors of high potentials. The strategic importance of specific sectors can be measured and prioritized by the PIDS (Philippine Institute for Development Studies) economic model known as the Aldaba framework. We do not have to depend on business titans, monopolists, political lords and carpetbaggers to dictate their terms on us.
As in the governance reform strategy, a critical component in pursuing culture change, execution and involvement is the assignment of the strategy management office which is already in existence in the four departments earlier mentioned as coordinators. There are expert strategists in our midst who can help adopt the proactive strategy for appropriate reforms throughout the bureaucracy and cascade it to include their external stakeholders to transform the potentials to real world-class status of the winning products/services.
This is the job strategy that needs to be launched with enthusiasm, determination and cleverness to meet the needs of the IMF, and, most of all, the needs of the Filipino people.
(The author is the chair of the MAP Committee on National Competitiveness)