Saturday, 01 June 2013 00:00
Private Sector perspective
on ZAMPEN Competetiveness
The latest NSCB results show our Region faring very poorly and has even decelerated, ranking second to the last.
As a Zamboangueno, I naturally reacted, that there must be something wrong with the survey, and even questioned the methodology on how they capture these data because Zamboanga City is in a different league altogether, being the industrial and commercial center of the Region. I even appealed that separate data be made on Zamboanga City especially on the FIES survey, which I feel was not fair to Zamboanga City. However, friends from NSO and NSCB opined that this is not possible , since we are grouped by regions.
Last October 5, 2012 I was in Kathmandu , Nepal … to compete in the search for the Most Outstanding Chamber in Asia and the Pacific organized by the Confederation of Chambers in the Asia and the Pacific. With God’s grace, we on the award, besting 26 countries.
On that same day, the RCC ZAMPEN met as a council and this humble representation was unanimously elected in absentia as the Co-chair for the Private sector of the Regional Competitiveness Council.
Wthout any hesitation I willingly took the challenge with the hope that with the new- found international as well as national profile for the Zamboanga Chamber, we can use this to help bring in the much needed investments for our City and the region. I was in for a big surprise, and later on realized the hurdles we have to face collectively as a region while reviewing our competiveness score card.
As part of ZAMPEN, Zamboanaga City cannot exist in isolation, we are part of the whole, and for us to improve our competitiveness, we have to go and compete as one region. Using available resources with a lot of creative, out- of- the- box ideas we need to look at our present ranking as an opportunity to be better.
Anchored on what Mahatma Gandhi said , we have to be the change we want to see, and start with you and me.
As part of the whole , we in the Private sector have to be part of the solution, especially in the Region where we operate. [But] our region is a cellar dweller, ranking second to the last, next to ARMM; this is something to be alarmed about. I call on the private sector, coming from various spheres of industries and discipline, to help us formulate flagship ideas and harness the power of these new ideas, by mobilizing multi sectoral energy and support.
The engagement will provide the multi sectoral group to help our respective areas of responsibilities to explore and determine our preferred future, and its commitment to engage and focus on the opportunity collectively for the vision to turn to reality. A shared vision for collective action is the driving force to turn our present position around.
Doing the SWOT analysis, we are faced with so many roadblocks but these are surmountable challenges … to overcome our weaknesses collectively as a region and further strengthen our strengths , appreciate the opportunities and take cognizance of the threats. Our role in the equation is clear as well as very vital as a long term enabler to ensure that current and future weakness can be address.
The future is now,and the time to act is now. From an outsider investor’s point of view , what will you normally hear, when they know you are from Zamboanga? In the marketing world, perception is everything. Unless we do something to counter this negative perception about Zamboanga image, that perception becomes the reality. Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s master propagandist , once said, that a thousand lies repeatedly said becomes the truth.
Security , peace and order are the top most concern that we really need to address,… From the private sector we propose a region-wide security plan with a multi dimensional approach., starting with the review in the allocation of logistic and funding requirement for our PNP.
In the aspect of liveability indicators, the factors that determine the quality of life in the region, the top most concern is our sense of security right in our own community. Do we feel safe? Are these only perception or unfounded fears?
On the basic utilities like electricity, do we have a 24 -hours a day uninterrupted power supply? Just before the election , a power crisis hit Mindanao.
In Zamboanga City, the cost of the average 8-9 hours daily power curtailment … to the business community has reached more than a billion pesos …from shorter manpower hours and inefficiency to additional operation and maintenance for fuel to fire up our own gensets.
We therefore urge our National Co –Chair to help us lobby for the EPIRA law to be reviewed, revisited or even to amend certain provisions that are inimical to the interest of the business community in the region. We further emphasize the non privatization of Mindanao’s hydropower plant in Agus and Pulangui, as this is one of competitive advantages of Mindanao - low power cost.
What about our water system distribution, are we getting quality potable grade water continuously and efficiently? What about water resource conservation - is it in place? Are they sustainable? Management of the water resources and its prudent utilization, sustainability and conservation will definitely add to our competitive advantage.
For our agriculture sector we have already identified the 5 champion products of our region, which are rubber, coconut, mangoes, carrageenan and abaca,. This is the best time to shift from just being a traditional supplier of raw materials to [producing] value added manufactured goods using these raw materials as a basic component. We have to think global but act local in preparation of ASEAN integration in 2015. We have to position Zampen as the front door of ASEAN, whose geographic location adds value to the region’s competitiveness.
What about our Economic free port zone and Sangali fishing port - how do these economic enterprises add value to the unique selling proposition as well as positioning of the region in the overall competiveness of ZAMPEN ? And how can convergence between the private sector and these GOCCs play a vital role in the over- all competitiveness of the entire region?
What about your local government - how business friendly are they? Do you have an Investment incentive Board? How frequently does it meet? How about the incentives being provided to entice business investment and locators , are they attractive enough to entice them to come? How predictable and consistent are they on policies and regulations?
What about the basic factors of production like our prices for our land, are they justifiably and relevantly priced?
What about our human capital? How well can the city attract a diverse group of people and talents? How many talents are there in business and educational environment conducive to innovation and creativity?
Lately there has been a growing call from different business and industry leaders to revisit the labor code, push for productivity and incentive programs , as well as letting market forces dictate the current regulated wage standardization by region. We in the private sector feel the relevance and timing of these issue and support a high level debate as to its pros and cons.
What about our educational institutions and the offered curricula - How relevant are they to the communities they want to serve? How conducive are these institutions of learning in providing the environment in which creative and innovative individuals can grow, thrive, prosper?
Are there existing policies among these academic institutions of learning to promote competitiveness that is focused on rebuilding the learning dynamics of the region through research and development?
A key component to raise the competitiveness level of our region is entrepreneurship,. Is there already a program, where entrepreneurship can be integrated? A paradigm shift of the students from being a job seeker to being job creators?
The foundation of any highly developed and competitive city or province rests upon the usefulness [of infrastructure]. How are these infrastructures aligned with the master development plan of your respective cities and provinces as to its overall vision and positioning of the city and its people? how will these infrastructures add value and importance to the daily operation of the city? Like our airports, sea ports and bus terminals? What about our road networks - what are the measurable points to consider for these to add value in the overall competitiveness index of our city and region? Like commute time, number of hours lost due to traffic congestions add up to the cost of transport and the delay brought about?
We all know that the competitiveness success of a city is based on two drivers -the ability to ship goods efficiently and freight charges which are competitive and relevant. High freight is one of the weak points that we in the business community have to address, due to very few players in the shipping industry. Our export industry is complaining that it is cheaper to send goods from Manila to Hong Kong than from Zamboanga to Manila.
We again appeal that the Cabotage law be revisited and hopefully open up the shipping industry to new players , even to foreign flag carriers. We also reiterate our call to revisit the Situs law, where companies located in the region where they operate must pay their revenue or income tax to the city or province they operate. Currently this is not so.
We also call to fast track the implementation of the open skies policy where Zamboanga International Airport was identified as one of the air hubs to avail of this positive development. What about an efficient mass transport system? Do we have one? Whatever happened to the plan to connect Mindanao via the Mindanao railway system?
Today , as ZAMPEN as a region is facing the dawning of a new era the business community has all the reasons to be hopeful and positive about what the prospects of the future will bring. The election of new leaders ushers in a new era anchored on transparency, accountability, inclusiveness and participative governance. With an overwhelming majority the message is clear. We hope that they will use their political capital and goodwill to clearly define our vision for our city as well as the region as a whole and provide that inspiring leadership … articulated convincingly to generate commitment and rally support for multi -sectoral engagement.
In closing, on behalf of the private sector, particularly the business community, we hope the National Competitiveness Council will help provide a clear diagnosis of the challenges that currently ail our region, and motivate the broad set of actors who are willing to seek change and implement an outward oriented growth strategy.
To end , I strongly suggest that as cohesive cluster, we need to develop a brand identity that is central to ZAMPEN’s competitive advantage. Remedios F. Marmoleno
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