Accountability, transparency, agility, consistency.
ACCORDING to InLife Executive Chairperson Nina D. Aguas, these are needed to ensure that the country gets the investment support it needs, while improving the lives of its citizens and ensuring that the private sector flourishes.
Speaking as one of the panelists during the Partnerships for Long-Term Growth: Contributions of the Private Sector in Development Panel during the recently held Pilipinas Conference 2023, Ms. Aguas underscored the importance of these four virtues as driving forces towards a more progressive country.
She likened the experience to setting up a business in Singapore, where because of these four, businesses get established in merely hours.
“We talk about the ease and costs of setting up a business. There it only takes two hours to be able to start a business. It does not take days.” She adds that our processes need to be simplified. “(In the Philippines) the tax regime alone is too complicated. In Singapore, when filing your individual tax returns, you’re audited before you start to pay. And then you’re given a year to pay for the whole thing. It’s all technology-driven so that makes it a lot easier. It’s very transparent and the process is simple. I’d really like that for the Philippines.”
She further explains the importance of long-term investments to insurance companies such as InLife, the company she heads.
“We in the insurance industry, are natural aggregators of policyholders’ money that is invested long term. My challenge is, I don’t have enough investment outlets that will support yield and duration. If the corporates can give me that, welcome. And if the government can also provide us with investment outlets, then welcome. (Together,) we can stimulate the economy.”
The panel also discussed how the private sector can contribute to upscaling the educational system of the country. Aguas underscored the importance of being able to harness the best and the brightest among Filipinos.
“Truly, our educational system is not at par with the rest of some of the countries we’d like to benchmark ourselves against. If we are into nuclear in ten or twelve years, do we have the nuclear engineers to do it? I don’t think so. We should incubate some of the best and brightest Filipinos through a partnership between the government and the private sectors. Let’s train them so we have a pool of talent in the Philippines. Give them access to great education and training. We talk about upscaling and upskilling all the time, but it’s not targeted. And then we incentivize them enough so that they don’t leave the country. We have geniuses in the Philippines, but I don’t think we have such a targeted solution for educating some of the best in the country.”
On the topic of global risk and opportunities, Aguas highlighted the ever-evolving regulatory challenges. She added a possibility of another black swan, albeit a small one. To counter another black swan, she advocates for more support to the equities market.
“We don’t have enough public shareholdings. And there’s very, very low liquidity in our stock market. We say 20% should be publicly-held. That’s why if we want investors to come in, we have to provide that liquidity.”
Joining Aguas in the panel were Ayala Corp. President and CEO Cezar Consing, Microsoft Philippines CEO Peter Maquera, International Container Terminal Services EVP and Global Corporate Head Christian Gonzalez, and Acciona S.A. Regional Director of Infrastructure in SouthEast Asia Ruben Camba. Panel moderator was Metro Pacific Investments Corporation’s Government Relations and Public Affairs Head Atty. Mike Toledo. The Pilipinas Conference 2023, held on November 22, 2023 at the Peninsula Manila, was organized and presented by think tank and research organization, Stratbase ADR Institute. (SPONSORED CONTENT)