Global experts speak on reigniting stalled PH economy
Last Sept. 15, the Management Association of the Philippines (MAP) celebrated yet another milestone with its 18th International CEO Conference and its first-ever web conference—one that was staged on multiple online platforms to broaden access to insights and learnings across various audiences: the local and international business community, government representatives, and even university students all over the Philippines. What was initially a challenge of holding an event in the middle of a pandemic turned into an opportunity to blaze a new trail for global collaboration and insight-sharing with a conference that is truly international.An advantage of staging a digital conference is that we get rid of barriers that require the physical presence of our speakers. Because of this, the MAP was fortunate to have some of the world’s most prominent experts share their views.
Issues and crises we are collectively facing
One of the common threads expressed by all our speakers is that the world is entering an unprecedented period of transition that affects every realm of society.
Dr. Jeffrey Sachs, President of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network, identified three major challenges in this new geopolitical era. The first is obviously COVID-19, a massive health issue that comes with equally massive economic implications. The second is the emergence of new technology that has led to the polarization of society, the destabilization of geopolitics, and the accentuation of the gap between the haves and the have-nots. Finally, he talked about a creeping climate change crisis that similarly creates an enormous impact to our economy and our society.Blair Sheppard, Global Leader for Strategy and Leadership of PwC UK captured these issues through his ADAPT (Asymmetry, Disruption, Age, Polarization and Trust) Framework, which paved the way for four crises:
• The first is a crisis of prosperity: There is rising inequality, with poor life choices for young people, a squeezed middle class, and a mass of people on the brink of retirement and lacking savings.
• The second is a crisis of technology: The world’s economic system drives innovation, yet fails to manage unintended negative consequences, polluting key elements of life support, from climate to the dissemination of news or information.• Thirdly, there is a crisis of institutional legitimacy: More people worldwide lose trust in government agencies, and institutions that try to maintain their existing structures in the face of major global forces find themselves buckling and warping, rather than adapting.
• Lastly, there is a crisis of leadership: People increasingly mistrust and blame those in power for their inability to manage these crises, and instead focus on narrow priorities rather than lead the world toward holistic solutions.
In her session, “Championing Media Freedom in Asia,” Amal Alamuddin Clooney posited that democracy is under threat, stating that there can be no functional democracy without a free press, and press cannot be free when journalists are criminalized for their work.
The human rights lawyer warned that COVID-19 is being used by governments to seize power and exacerbate abuses. Governments have criminalized so-called fake news on the pandemic and had scores of journalists arrested, while deadly untruths have spread. She also mentioned that since more journalists are now imprisoned for their work, there needs to be greater accountability for attacks on the media.
The topic of geopolitics presented by both Dr. Sachs and the chair and chief economist of TAC Economics, Dr. Thierry Apoteker, shows that geopolitical rivalry and the reasons that sustain it have not stopped with COVID-19.
Depending on its depth and duration, the crisis could lead us toward even more disruptive issues, which Mr. Sheppard and Dr. Apoteker noted would include protectionism and populism. It has also been observed that populist leaders are attempting to control our everyday life, including the independence of the media sector as argued by Clooney when she discussed media freedom. Common among the presenters is the issue of new technology, which can simultaneously empower and alienate individuals and societies alike.
With challenges coming at us from all angles, how can leaders—specifically those in the private sector—take the reins and guide us toward a stronger world that survives our current crisis?
More collaboration, less fragmentation
One of my main takeaways from all the esteemed speakers is the need to act collaboratively amid these dangerous times. The need to be united has never been more important. As the world teeters on the brink of irreparable discord, unity and cooperation will pave the way toward greater harmony, respect and recovery from that crisis that we face.
Asean Secretary-General Dato Paduka Lim Jock Hoi emphasized the importance of the “Whole-of-Asean Community Approach,” which engages collaboration among multiple sectors to curb the pandemic in the Asean region. Significant initiatives include the establishment of the COVID-19 Asean Response Fund and the ongoing regional reserve of medical supplies and standard operating procedures to deal with future public health emergencies.
In solving our current health crisis, Dr. Sachs advised that industries and the private and public sectors must also work together in order to strike a balance that results in effective health measures with sustained economic activity to prevent the paralysis of our society.
Embrace technology and innovation responsibly.
Without a doubt, technology has helped us solve some of the most pressing global issues. But as our speakers illustrated, it has also broadened the inequality gap and disadvantaged those who do not have access to it. Moving forward, it is imperative that leaders continue to embrace technology and innovation while remaining mindful of its implications to the broader society. Lim Jock Hoi called upon the private sector to adapt to digitization as a way to support recovery and improve productivity. This includes maintaining strong partnerships with the government and other sectors to address cybersecurity and reskilling of the workforce.
Sheppard likewise presented a three-point framework as essential actions for leaders: namely to REPAIR, RETHINK, and RECONFIGURE.
To Repair, the immediate imperative is to fix what has been broken, such as human and economic damage, increased national debt, tax base and short term spending. To Rethink, companies need to rethink their operating models to be more robust in handling disruptions. Countries and companies will need competitive and collaborative strategies that are dramatically different from those they might have imagined a few months ago. To Reconfigure, organizations must fundamentally reconfigure or reengineer public and business institutions. This would include capacitizing stakeholders with the same technology, to enable them to advance similarly.
Leadership: the densest thread to ensure business resiliency
It goes without saying that good leadership—whether in the private or public sector, large companies or small households—is critical in making sure we all make it to the other side of this crisis.
As business leaders, we must make decisions that ensure stable, more efficient and resilient supply chains that enable business continuity. As followers in other aspects, we must remain cognizant of the power we continue to wield in choosing the leaders who will navigate our society through these global shifts.
Dr. Sachs noted that global leadership is critical in determining whether we make it out of these crises alive and stronger than ever. Our leaders are called upon to act ethically—through behavior that is intercultural and transcends religion—in order for us to solve our current issues and transform for the better. As leaders of the business community, the onus is on us to do our part. INQ
(This article reflects the personal opinion of the author and does not reflect the official stand of the Management Association of the Philippines or the MAP. Junie del Mundo is the vice chair of the MAP CEO Conference Committee and cofounder and CEO of the EON Group, a fully integrated communications consultancy with expertise in consumer and corporate PR, reputation management and public affairs, digital marketing and creative technology, and experiential marketing.
Email [email protected])
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