IF THERE is today that needs the attention and support of the local government, it is the small entrepreneurs.
Taking Bacolod as an example, official and unofficial data say that this sector comprises more than sixty percent of the business community in the city or roughly 15,000 of the more than 30,000 registered operating businesses. If we included the unregistered the number could be higher.
Their contribution to the annual gross domestic value added is estimated between 35 to 45 percent or higher.
They are the sari-sari store owners; the small roadside eateries; the ambulant stores like the fishball and peanut-egg vendors; the fish and vegetable vendors in the markets; the small goods retailers; the e-load retailers; the evening chicken and pork stall operators in and around public plaza, markets, terminals, construction sites, and schools; the single proprietor-operator of one or two PJU or taxi, and dozens more.
There are two sides to the continued growth of small entrepreneurs.
On one hand, it is a demonstration of the Filipinos' resilient spirit to have their both ends met amid all odds and adversities of life.
On the other hand, it is a solid proof that the government has failed to generate adequate employment and services because of its stubborn pursuance of a debt-driven, consumer-led and speculative development thrust.
Our economists call it exclusionary development because it pays more attention to ballooning the Gross National Product (GNP) and Gross Domestic Product (GDP) through speculative investments, infrastructure and consumers spending, with a token of anti-poverty spending.
Instead of giving more investments to our agriculture especially food and resource development to provide more muscle to our industries, especially manufacturing, which are job generations, it continues to focus on assembly and processing of semi-processed imported cheap materials, processing of semiconductors for exports, real estate infrastructure development, mining and quarry, and BPO/call centers.
We get lots of infrastructures, malls, and IT-BPOs which generate little, temporary and unsustainable employment.
Even retail stores and sweatshops can only absorb small labor force, and often they give below minimum wages with hardly any benefit and social security.
So finding no other opportunities more of our “kababayans” are forced to go abroad or establish their own small family-based enterprises.
Yet most of those who engage in small enterprises hardly survive because of little capital, and whatever is there that they sustain are often eaten up by inflation.
The government should stop their bias for the big businesses, and start giving a serious look on how to create a favorable environment and support systems for small entrepreneurs to grow.
It is imperative to help the small entrepreneurs because they are not only numerous, they are also a potent force to prevent widespread poverty from worsening. They are also the key to reducing the poor and expanding the middle class.
The local government could start drawing a comprehensive roadmap for the entrepreneur’s development. This roadmap must define local economy development, main drivers and locators of growth, areas of opportunities for small businesses, laws and ordinances enhancing small entrepreneurship, translating the newly approved act on “ease of doing business” into practical and friendly support systems, defining government and non-government sources of funds and how these can be accessed by small entrepreneurs, dispute settlement systems, among others.
I believe the city government and the province have all the resources and capacity to engage the entrepreneurs and help them propel to undertake bigger initiatives and thus increase the growth of the local economy.
In fact, the Local Government Code, under Sec.15-22, has clearly stated that the local government has two identities, the political and the corporate. Its corporate identity focuses on the creation of community wealth, generate employment, create and expand the local market for people’s produce, and no less, empower the people through their organizations.
This is what it means to make a difference in governance - making itself an instrument of changing lives and transforming communities, not just collecting taxes, raising revenues, protecting the big interests, and giving tokens of social services to the poor.
Entrepreneur's economy may not be the strategic solution to our country's fundamental problems, but it will surely contribute to easing the bottlenecks towards a real inclusionary development.
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