Focus on job creating sectors, financing support for MSMEs pushed

Business groups are pushing for focus on productive sectors, including agriculture, and initiatives to strengthen the micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) to generate jobs, as the country prepares for medium-term recovery from the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19).

George Barcelon, Vice Chairman of Philippine Exporters Confederation Inc. (PHILEXPORT), said remittance growth from overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) is expected to fall while tourism also declines amid the pandemic.

“Definitely, that will dampen the outlook. We have to be forward looking on what the country needs. The country needs jobs. The other sector that goes with it is the agri-aqua sector and forestry. These are the sectors that I think that the government should take focus,” he said in a webinar.

Barcelon said the Philippine budget for the agriculture sector is much lower compared with that of Thailand, while the country imports twice what it exports.

He also suggested the need to promote education and training in the agriculture sector.

“And we have to attract the young people. Agriculture is now high-tech. We (have) precision irrigation, precision fertilization, so these increase our productivity, to be self-sufficient at the same time create jobs,” he added.

In the tourism sector, Barcelon said there may be new scenic places that can be developed for the future market of tourism.

“(And) we are happy that the government has embarked on the Build, Build, Build (infrastructure program) that created more than three million jobs,” he said.

For his part, Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) President Benedicto Yujuico underscored the need for the government and financial institutions to provide credit support to the MSMEs which are having “difficult time” with the imposition of community quarantine amid Covid-19.

“In our opinion in PCCI, we really do not know how long this problem will last until such time that a vaccine is found, we will always be operating under abnormal circumstances,” he said, adding the entrepreneurs have to prepare for the medium term.

Yujuico said the group is focusing on the financing aspect which is imperative for small businesses to be able to recover from the pandemic.

Aside from credit or government support, he cited the importance of innovation to improve businesses.

“These are the things that are possible and these are not gonna cost us a lot. It looks like we are going to be in hard times for a few six months, (or) possibly more so we need to prepare our plans within that scenario and actually tackle the problems accordingly,” he added.

Employers Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP) chairman Edgardo Lacson said one of the big challenges after lockdowns is regaining confidence in jumpstarting the economy.

“On the question of whether we will have a recession, we are scared. It is not a question of “if”, it’s a question of how deep and how long. Definitely, there will be a recession globally and locally,” Lacson said.

“…Covid-19 maybe (is just) one temporary inconvenience that we as a people can overcome,” he added.

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