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A Christmas wish list for PH business

What does one write for a business column on Christmas day? After considering various options, I decided to do this Christmas wish list. Most of the wishes on this list I have already written about in the past.

Wish 1 is the most obvious. Better societies are built on strong foundational values like integrity and love of country. Business must behave and do business the right way. The Brotherhood of Christian Businessmen and Professionals always challenges business owners and managers to do the right thing even when no one is watching. Businesses can just focus on two things to hit the two birds of integrity and love of country with one stone: Always pay your taxes fully and properly, and never pay the bribe. A culture of integrity can and will infect your employees and their families as well as your suppliers and other business partners. As more and more businesses thrive by doing the right things, fewer and fewer businesses will resort to shortcuts, inevitably improving the quality of goods and services in the market and fueling more and more innovation.

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Wish 2 is about growing partnerships beyond job generation and profit motives. Businesses must evolve more and more meaningful and sustained partnerships with the rest of civil society. The models presented by the Philippine Business for Education and The Hunger Project must be replicated again and again to address society’s deepest ailments. CEO champions must help call attention to these deeply rooted ills, mobilize support and resources in a sustained matter, and work with experts in the academe and nonprofit sector to develop the right projects and programs that can generate the desired outcomes. Building these multisectoral partnerships will open up new paths to resolve lingering problems and issues, ultimately improving the country’s competitiveness.

For Wish 3, let’s focus on the need for business to embrace a transforming role in democratic elections. Business must make continuing voter education—beginning with its employees and their families—a firm commitment, investing in workshops and forums that expand the perspectives of individuals in choosing their leaders on both local and national levels. Don’t tell people who to choose but how to choose, and why their voice and the choices they make do matter in the end. An action opportunity for all employees must be to join citizen’s arms for honest elections like Namfrel and the PPCRV.

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By helping multiply responsible voters, businesses can, over time, free themselves from the practice of having to donate to all candidates as they are forced to hedge their bets and protect themselves from the various more likely outcomes. Business can then focus on investing in doing business, and politicians can focus on delivering better leadership to a more discerning voting constituency. Through voter education, business can make our democracy work, ensuring rule of law and a stable and level playing field for doing business.

If Philippine business can grant these three wishes, Filipino families across the country will have better Christmases to celebrate in a better Philippines of innovation, global competitiveness, and a level playing field for business. Is this all just wishful thinking? Maybe, but here’s the rub: The global community is grappling with the triple whammy of worsening disasters brought by climate change, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the spread of populism. Without innovation, global competitiveness, and the right environment for business to thrive, a nation will quickly weaken and even crumble in the face of these challenges. When the systems and institutions no longer work, what kind of business can we still really do? If Philippine business wants to survive and thrive, it must help build a better Philippines for all.

Corporate greed, to my mind, is not the biggest problem. The often token corporate social responsibility is. Come to think of it, this is probably why the Asian Institute of Management’s Asian Forum on Corporate Social Responsibility rebranded itself into the Asian Forum on Enterprises for Society.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

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Peter Angelo V. Perfecto was former executive director of Makati Business Club, works with the Phinma group, and chairs Oxfam Pilipinas. Email: [email protected]

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Business Matters is a project of Makati Business Club.

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TAGS: business, christmas wish list, economy
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