Pursuant to Proclamation 247 issued by Malacanang in September 2002, the Development Policy Research Month (DPRM) is celebrated every September to encourage Philippine policymakers, government leaders, and the public to appreciate the importance of policy research in crafting evidence-based policies and programs.
Policy research is essential for effective planning and policymaking. Policies should be evidence-based, and the DPRM highlights this fact. It also aims to increase the public’s awareness of the significance of data and research evidence in crafting programs and policies and remind policymakers that there are policy studies and other similar resources that they can use as bases for their decision-making processes.
Proclamation 247 identified the PIDS, the primary socioeconomic think tank of the Philippine government, as the overall coordinator of the yearly DPRM celebration. Together with the members of the DPRM interagency steering committee, the PIDS crafts the DPRM theme for the year, which is usually a current or emerging development issue, and organizes various activities to demonstrate the importance of policy research and to engage the public to participate. These activities include policy seminars and dialogues, press conferences, and roundtable discussions, among others.
The permanent member of the steering committee are the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), Civil Service Commission (CSC), Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), Philippine Information Agency (PIA), Presidential Management Staff (PMS), Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), Department of Budget and Management (DBM), Senate Economic Planning Office (SEPO), and Congressional Policy and Budget Research Department (CPBRD). Each year, other agencies are invited depending on the theme. The additional members for 2021 are the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), Climate Change Commission (CCC), and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
This year’s DPRM celebration carries the theme “Reset and Rebuild for a Better Philippines in the Post-Pandemic World” (Filipino translation: “Muling Magsimula at Magtayo Tungo sa Mas Matatag na Pilipinas Pagkatapos ng Pandemya”). It aims to emphasize that to rebuild from the COVID-19 pandemic and create a better Philippines, we need to reset our paradigms and practices by balancing the interests of people, profit, and planet or by placing equal importance on economic, social, and environmental well-being and sustainability. Through this month-long celebration, PIDS hopes to urge the government, business sector, academe, civil society, and the general public to work together in pursuing a shared vision of an equitable, sustainable, and resilient post-pandemic Philippines.
Resetting capitalism means finding ways to identify the flaws of the current capitalist system and how to fix them to ensure a more sustainable way of life post-pandemic. A sustainable way of life may mean changing social and behavioral practices, altering views of what is essential and has economic value, and restructuring institutions to optimize the benefits from new practices and emerging worldviews.
The concept of “resetting capitalism” stems from the so-called “Great Reset”—a proposal by the World Economic Forum (WEF) to rebuild the world economy sustainably following the COVID-19 pandemic. In a 2020 article, WEF Founder Klaus Schwab emphasized the need to “build entirely new foundations for our economic and social systems” to address economic and social problems that were worsened during the pandemic.
In the same article, Schwab presented the three components of “The Great Reset”, which include steering the market toward fairer outcomes, ensuring investments advance shared goals such as equality and sustainability, and harnessing the innovations of the Fourth Industrial Revolution to support the public good.
Businesses are at the heart of the current capitalism model that we have. When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, they were the first ones to be heavily impacted by the lockdowns and quarantine restrictions. Consequently, the pandemic has exposed inequalities and left-behind communities and resulted in deep unemployment in many areas.
While the pandemic has shown that businesses can set aside self-interest to help their employees and society in times of need, they are still under pressure to stick to their profit-making objective. This goal may drive their attention away from ensuring the welfare of their workers and relevant communities, especially when the pandemic eases. Now is an opportune time to discuss how businesses can be profitable and ethical at the same time.
A critical characteristic of an ethical business is consideration of the interests of all stakeholders (employees, customers, suppliers, community, etc.) or the so-called “stakeholder capitalism”. In contrast, “shareholder capitalism” means the interests of only one stakeholder (the owner) dominate. Shareholder capitalism aims to maximize profits and shareholder value, while stakeholder capitalism prioritizes long-term value creation.
Some business groups in large free-market economies have already started a movement toward stakeholder capitalism. In the United States, about 190 firms have signed a Business Roundtable Statement on corporate purpose declaring “a fundamental commitment to all stakeholders” and listed specific commitments to customers, employees, suppliers, communities, and shareholders.
Earlier this year, over 60 global industry leaders have committed to the Stakeholder Capitalism Metrics released by the WEF’s International Business Council. The metrics comprise various environment, social, and governance (ESG) metrics that can serve as bases for universal and comparable disclosures that are focused on “people, planet, prosperity and governance” pillars. Metrics include, among others, greenhouse gas emissions, pay equality, and board diversity.
In November 2020, more than 20 business associations in the Philippines signed the “Covenant for Shared Prosperity” that vows to raise the welfare of all the stakeholders of local businesses. Commitments include nondiscrimination in employment, fair and ethical treatment of suppliers and funders, active involvement in communities where they operate, protection and preservation of the environment, and delivery of “reasonable and just returns to and fair treatment of” controlling and noncontrolling shareholders.
Similarly, since 2017, the Code of Corporate Governance has been mandating sustainability reports from the country’s publicly listed companies to present their contribution to building a more sustainable society. However, there have been calls to adopt a more consistent measure as companies can choose among various reporting standards at present.
The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the global economy and affected the environment. According to a policy brief of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the pandemic is closely interrelated with global environmental issues such as climate change, air and water pollution, and waste management, among others.
Based on OECD’s report, the global emissions of carbon dioxide and air pollution have declined temporarily as business and industrial operations, ground transport, and air travel were suspended due to lockdowns and quarantines. Reduced economic activities also improved water quality in some waterways and coastal zones in other countries.
However, the pandemic has also increased the volume of waste materials due to the widespread use of disposable masks, shields, and personal protective equipment/gears, and other medical/healthcare supplies at both households and hospitals. The growing demand for single-use plastics and the reduction of recycling capacity in local governments have also created significant waste management and environmental challenges.
The pandemic has underscored the importance of environmental health and resilience. It urges the government to aim for better air quality, improved water quality, and effective waste management to reduce the vulnerability of communities to future threats and improve the overall well-being of people. In other words, building resilience entails the conservation (i.e., ensuring sustainable use or preventing destruction and neglect) of green and blue ecosystems, as well as climate change adaptation and mitigation.
In the case of the Philippines, recent data suggest that current conservation strategies are somewhat inadequate compared with the targets. According to the summary of Sachs et al. (2020), the country’s progress in terms of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) shows that before the pandemic, the overall trend for SDG 14 (life below water) is stagnating while that for SDG 15 (life on land) is decreasing. Hence, it is necessary to reverse this trend to avoid it from worsening.
To address this, the government should ensure that climate targets and well-being targets complement each other, especially in the areas of food security, energy development and use, waste management, conservation of green and blue ecosystems, and preparing for climate change-related diseases and addressing health inequities.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had an unprecedented impact on the labor market. It unveiled significant gaps in terms of coverage and adequacy of existing social protection systems for workers.
Specifically, it highlighted existing inequities faced by low-compensation workers as they are more likely to encounter poor work-related conditions, live in crowded conditions or areas with high levels of pollution, take congested public transportation, lack the financial resources to afford adequate protection even while away from the workplace, feel compelled to go to work even on sick days as the opportunity cost of not working is just too high, and have pre-existing health conditions given the environment they are in and the stresses they encounter.
These workers are likely to suffer more should they get infected during the pandemic or during outbreaks post-pandemic.
In the absence of a comprehensive social protection, many workers will be vulnerable to economic shocks. Hence, the government and the business sector need to build shock-responsive social protection systems for the workforce. Likewise, the government should ensure that regulations promoting decent work are adhered to by employers.
In addition, it is important to future-proof education to ensure that learners will be productive when they enter the labor market. At the same time, continuous reskilling is essential to ensure that the current workforce adapts to the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Closing the digital divide and addressing gender gaps and youth unemployment are also necessary.
As individual citizens, we should start living more responsibly by adopting more sustainable lifestyles. We also need to reset our paradigms by adopting new practices at work, in learning, and in leisure that will help build our resilience to adversities.
Concept note for the DPRM/APPC 2021 (Reset and Rebuild for a Better Philippines in the Post-Pandemic World). PIDS. Unpublished.
DPRM/APPC 2021 Concept Note Presentation (https://pidswebs.pids.gov.ph/CDN/OTHERS/210713_ppt_for_dprm_meeting-v2.pdf)
DPRM 2021 Messaging (https://pidswebs.pids.gov.ph/CDN/OTHERS/dprm_appc_2021_messaging.pdf).
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