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Private firms urged to help ensure inclusive recovery

/ 04:00 AM January 25, 2021

Business tycoon Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala is “cautiously optimistic” for 2021, citing green shoots of recovery from the havoc caused by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and the string of natural disasters last year.

However, the chair of the country’s oldest conglomerate warned of a “clear and present risk of a bifurcation in recovery where inequalities widen and social tensions rise.” He thus called on corporations and business associations to reframe their participation in the economy to promote inclusive growth.

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“I’m certainly confident that we will recover from pandemic and natural calamities, but this recovery will be gradual and uneven,” Zobel said in a keynote speech to the Shareholders Association of the Philippines (SharePHIL) on Friday.

The business tycoon said the task would be to accelerate recovery and ensure that such recovery would be broad-based. Making it as inclusive as possible will “require a strong commitment from a reimagined capitalist system,” he said.

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With the rollout of COVID-19 vaccine this year, Zobel said mobility was expected to improve, but noted that it might take a bit of time for the country to return to prepandemic levels.

“It may not be until the fourth quarter of 2022 that we will see Philippine recovery to postpandemic levels, barring any new surge in new infection rates or significant execution gaps in our vaccine implementation rollout,” he said.

“We’ve always relied on consumption-led growth. I think this is the time for all of us to do what we can to encourage investments in every way possible as a driver in rebooting the economy.

Businesses and investors of all sizes have a unique role to play to exponentially accelerate our recovery and we must all do what we can as institutions to encourage that,” he said.

But the reality is that not everyone can share in the growth, Zobel said. While capital markets are open to established institutions and individuals who have the means, he noted that the drop in consumer demand has made it more challenging for micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs).

Zobel cited the “Covenant for Shared Prosperity” signed by major business groups late last year as an excellent framework on how businesses should align themselves in treating employees, customers, peers, partners and shareholders with utmost fairness and integrity.

Within the Ayala group, he said the business house has revisited and strengthened its commitment to key stakeholder groups and reemphasized its pledge to protect and provide peace of mind to employees through financial support and wage continuance to both direct employees and partners in no-work-no-pay arrangements. It has also constructed dedicated quarantine and treatment facilities for employees to give them peace of mind if they or their loved ones would be afflicted with COVID-19.

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TAGS: Business, COVID-19, Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala
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