OF TREES AND FOREST
In my column last week, I discussed the kind of entrepreneurial mindset that will help us get through this pandemic and the economic downturn it has spawned. In this column, I will look at that same entrepreneurial mindset and how it can help us rebuild our economy after the Coronavirus pandemic is over.
There was no doubt that the lockdown imposed beginning March 15, 2020, was essential to our efforts to fight the spread of COVID-19. Businesses, public transportation, and all economic activities practically ceased during the most stringent phases of the quarantine as our people stayed at home for fear of contracting the deadly virus. As I wrote in my previous column, Filipino entrepreneurs — the unsung heroes of this pandemic — demonstrated their ability to create something out of necessity as they navigated the lockdown.
The same entrepreneurial spirit is needed when the pandemic ends. The problem is that while the lockdown can be — and in fact was — imposed immediately, recovery will not happen in an instant. Lifting the lockdown totally will not magically revive the economy. The establishments that had to close will not necessarily open immediately after the pandemic. The jobs that were lost will not be recovered at once.
In fact, if we are to believe two Oxford economists, the Philippines, together with India and Indonesia, would have one of the slowest near-term recovery among the region’s economies. The Asian Development Bank (ADB) said that it will take countries years to recover the economic losses of the pandemic which government estimates to reach about P2 trillion. Although I also share the optimism of my good friend Finance Secretary Sonny Dominguez when he said that our solid fundamentals and “the timely implementation of our economic recovery program” will allow us “to get back on our positive growth trajectory.”
There are many variables to consider as we begin rebuilding our economy and I believe that two of the most important factors that will ensure the success of our recovery are infrastructure and entrepreneurship. We need to continue with our massive infrastructure program in order to create jobs and replace those lost in the pandemic. The building of roads, highways, and bridges will pump prime the economy and boost economic activities in the country.
But we also need to focus on entrepreneurship as an important ingredient as we kick-start the economy from its current stupor. While some employees will be able to return to their jobs when the economy fully reopens, a great number will remain unemployed as many businesses be very cautious as they restart their enterprises. Remember many businesses have shut down or shelved their expansion plans during the quarantine.
We need to be able to encourage, train and support employees who have lost their jobs to start their own businesses. This means supporting them as they venture in the “new normal” of online-based economy. This means that public policy has to shift towards supporting new ventures leading to the growth of self-employment. Here is where the entrepreneurial mindset will be extremely helpful: resiliency.
Resiliency simply refers to the ability to bounce back quickly from challenging times. This is what we need. This is what the times demand. As we begin the recovery process, entrepreneurs can help our country as we bounce back to our previous growth trajectory. It is the same resiliency that will allow us to understand and master the “new normal” for businesses in the post-pandemic world. Most of them are already doing it even during the lockdown. We need to transplant that mindset, that entrepreneurial spirit to as many Filipinos as possible.
Entrepreneurial resilience and ingenuity will create jobs for our people. It will kick-start economic activity that will lead to growth. I believe that the post-pandemic era is the perfect time to begin an entrepreneurial revolution by creating a new cadre of self-employed Filipinos. Entrepreneurs who will no longer have as their professional dream sitting behind a desk in a cubicle but rather developing solutions and providing services to our people.