The World Economic Forum: Impact on Filipino workers

DIRECT FROM THE LABOR FRONT - Atty Josephus B Jimenez - The Freeman

Every time the Philippines hosts or attends a global or regional conference, the government always sees it as a positive step towards our country's competitive and cooperative position relative to other countries in Asia and in the whole world. The on-going World Economic Forum for Asia now being held in our country is definitely seen by the administration as a big boost to our image as a leading economic tiger in ASEAN, most especially that in a matter of six months hence we shall enter into the arena of the Asean Economic Community. It is a much welcomed development at a time when we have an on-going territorial dispute with China, and we face some domestic problems like the looming power crisis and the inadequate infrastructures that our nation has been grappling with for decades now.

The prophets of gloom however, as usual, led by the left and the left of center, and the opposition, have different stories to tell. They are criticizing the government for spending no less than one hundred million pesos to host this event, while there are millions of poor Filipinos in our country today who are homeless, jobless and perhaps hopeless, not having access to what should have been an inclusive economic growth. The leftist organizations are looking at this forum as a summit of the moneyed business heavyweights and the more powerful socio-economic elites from thirty countries. They deplore the fact that the poor, the uninfluential, the outcasts in society are locked out from this forum. They expect therefore that the output of this global conference will just be a road map to perpetuate the controlling class' hold on the world's economy and politics.

This column however has a third perspectives, not as optimistic as the government's nor as gloomy as that of the leftists' views. We believe that there are emerging opportunities from this forum, as well as risks that we face in the global arena. The good news first. Holding a conference like the World Economic Forum highlights the positive factors that our country enjoys, like a very creative human capital, a globally-aligned mindset among our people, our openness to integration and globalization, and the multi talents of our employees, both the highly-skilled and the new entrants into the labor force, both the executives, the managerial levels and the frontliners. The Philippines opens itself to billions of investments from 30 countries that will definitely create values and create jobs for our young and passionate work force.

A forum like this will generate billions in income from tourism and open our windows to people who might have misunderstood the Philippines in the past. It will prove that the security issues had been neutralized and the corruption problems are being addressed relentlessly and uncompromisingly, even involving top political leaders in the government. The thirty countries' delegates will have a first hand impression of the country and will tell the world about the real story of and about the Philippines, its excellently growing economy and the talents of its people. They will discover that the Philippines is a peaceful, secure and clean country, with friendly and talented people, that our government is undertaking massive reforms and building infrastructures in trying to lead and manage a sustainable growth.

However, we should not forget that our underemployment rate is the highest in Asean, the poverty incidence is rising, the population problem poses serious threats to the country's ability to manage the social equilibrium between the highly powerful elite on the one hand, and the millions of marginalized sectors who have no access to jobs, social services like affordable quality education, health care and welfare facilities. We have a long way to go in order to make our economic development truly inclusive and to make sure that our economic growth trickles down to the poorest of the poor. We also have to make sure that President Aquino's initiatives shall be sustained by the next president. and that our economic growth shall not burst as a bubble given the confluence of pressures both from the macro global environment and the micro domestic inadequacies.

Attended by three heads of states, and more than 600 delegates coming from more than 30 countries and 25 industries across the world, both the right and the left, as well as the center should be realistic enough that this forum is something that will impact on the Philippines, its economy, its politics and even the future of the Filipinos in the threshold of the ASEAN integration in 2015. Whether opportunities or threats, we should stand up as a conscientious people, working hard and looking forward to taking our rightful place in the international community of nations. No matter what one says, the World Economic Forum is a milestone in our history as an emerging tiger economy in Asia and in the world. Let China, the European Union, and all the other blocs in the global world take notice of that. The Philippines is back in business. No ifs and no buts.


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