Key priorities for the Philippines’ next CEO
By Jose E. B. Antonio
See it here as it appears on Inquirer Business, April 27, 2016

As election season hits fever pitch, political machineries bombarding the public with so much noise and social media mudslinging have eclipsed the important issues that could help us choose the right leader for our nation.

Electing a new president is similar to choosing a new CEO for a large corporation. And as “stockholders” of the country each one of us must cast our vote wisely.

Through this generous opportunity provided by the INQUIRER, I would like to share the qualities we should look for in our next president, as well as key growth priorities and performance indicators, before the Philippines elects its next CEO on May 9.

First, the country’s new Chief Executive Officer must have a clear vision of how to propel the Philippines forward. He or she must be able to support the vision with concrete strategies and more importantly, see through its implementation. A Japanese proverb once said that vision without execution is just hallucination. Thus, sound planning must always translate to decisive action and measurable results.

Second, the president must be sensitive to the needs of the majority, and should spur growth activities that will redound to benefits for the greater majority of our population. Review the government platforms of your short-listed candidate and check his or her development programs for the country.

We have short-term problems that need to be addressed, including our urgent need for efficient infrastructure, the lessening of graft and corruption, and political issues that bring forth geopolitical tensions in the region. Of equal importance will be the new CEO’s resolve to push growth priorities that will uplift our people in the long term. And here, I would say that the low lying fruits are in tourism and agriculture.

Tourism is still a largely untapped opportunity and has one of the biggest potentials of our sunrise industries. Supported by adequate infrastructure and support facilities, Philippine tourism can compete head on with destination powerhouses like Thailand and Malaysia. Our country is endowed with beautiful natural spots, hospitable people, and offers a relatively affordable cost of living. We just need enhanced access through airports and road networks. As Tourism Secretary Mon Jimenez said, tourism is the “shortest path to inclusive growth” because it “provides jobs, spurs businesses and connects many other industries.”

Agriculture also remains underdeveloped. The sector contributes only four percent to our national GDP despite the fact that one third of our population is working in agriculture. Growing this industry will address the major issues of food security and employment for farmers in the rural areas.

There also needs to be a conscious effort to implement a comprehensive program to make the Philippines a hub for investment. We have the skilled labor force; what we need is consistency in implementing laws and the lessening of bureaucracy.

Ready or not, our country will operate under an integrated Asean, which will allow the free flow of goods, services, investments and skilled labor, as well as the freer movement of capital across the region. This means that the Philippines will be looked at not only as a new market by its regional peers, but also as a source of supply for products for a market of 600 million.

Last year, Euromonitor International named the Philippines as one of the world’s five emerging markets collectively called NIMPTs, together with Nigeria, Indonesia, Mexico and Turkey. The market research firm considers the Philippines to be one of the five economic giants of the future for its growing economy, rising income and young, expanding population, thereby offering growth opportunities for consumer goods manufacturers. Hence, it bodes well if our new CEO can position the country as a globally competitive player in trade and investments.

On the real еstatе front, the collective efforts of major industry players under our organization – the Asia Pacific Real Еstatе Association-Philippines chapter – have resulted in the creation of a comprehensive outline of growth policy recommendations for the country. We seek to share this with presidential aspirants, since the upcoming 2016 elections provide a unique opportunity for them to leverage more inclusive growth through commitments of launching ambitious, game changing programs.

We in APREA feel the Philippine property sector’s huge contribution to economic growth and society’s living standards underscores our duty to push for these game-changing reform policies. Rеal еstatе impacts 50 other industries, contributes to at least 10% of the country’s GDP and directly employs more than 11 million people. We do so by helping design, finance, build, manage and own the assets and critical infrastructure that underpin cities and regions. We are keen to contributing even more.

While the Philippines has improved its economic development programs in recent years, there is still so much more we can do collectively to turbo-charge national prosperity.

APREA’s 8 Growth Priorities proposes the following steps:

1) Re-boot Real Еstatе Investment Trusts (REITs) to turbocharge economic growth through a modernized Philippines REIT framework, launched within the first 100 days of the new Congress;

2) Establish a long term urban strategy for the Philippines that incorporates the best thinking of international approaches;

3) Connect the Philippines with smart infrastructure by establishing an independent statutory entity that will prioritize and help deliver nationally significant infrastructure;

4) Launch a national housing partnership between all spheres of government that enshrines housing supply delivery targets and which de-risks development processes;

5) Introduce a green strategy for sustainable and resilient cities by providing incentives to tune-up existing buildings and placing the built environment at the center of a national resilient plan;

6) Promote the Philippines as a business investment hub by implementing a priority program that will remove barriers to foreign investment, while rejecting actions that raise sovereign risk and adopting competitive neutrality principles;

7) Boost tourism numbers and revenues by improving access to tourism destinations through (a) ratifying the ASEAN Economic Community open skies policy and extending it to other countries; (b) committing to a regional airport priority setting program with a delivery timetable; (c) committing to a second airport for Metro Manila and establishing an independent authority to deliver t by 2030;

8 ) Cut red tape and increase contractual certainty by upgrading the existing Regulatory Impact Assessment process to an international standard, and implementing an e-government online procurement and delivery program driven by performance KPIs that are reported upon annually.

APREA’s key growth priorities above had set a KPI target of 7 years, or achieving the following by the end of the next presidential term:

• The Philippines moves into the ranks of the Top 5 Asian countries in relation to major indices, such as the Global Competitiveness Index (World Economic Forum), Ease of Doing Business Index (World Bank), and Corruption Perception Index (Transparency International);

• Secures a bigger slice of the ASEAN Economic Community growth cake;

• Achieves inclusive growth with a measurable social capital dividend and significantly lower inequality;

• Increases housing affordability and choice for all citizens;

• Increases annual international tourism arrivals to 7 million

• Moves to a more resilient and efficient tax base, including property taxes.

The above are the key priorities and KPIs or key performance indicators that will measure the Philippines’ next CEO as he or she sits in office. And as in a true corporation, he or she will have to face annual stockholders meetings where performance and results will be judged accordingly.

Jose E.B. Antonio is the chairman and chief executive officer of Century Properties Group Inc., a 30-year-old Philippine real еstatе firm listed in 2012 in the Philippines Stock Exchange. In 2012, he was awarded by Property Report Asia as Real Еstatе Personality of the Year at the Southeast Asia Property Awards. He is also the chairman of the Asia Pacific Real Еstatе Association (APREA) Philippines chapter. As an organized representative of the property investment industry in the Asia Pacific region, APREA actively champions innovative and evidence-based public policy platforms that serve the needs of Asia’s governments, citizens and businesses. It endeavors to open up and expand property investment markets by working with governments to improve business ground rules, connect members to cross-border commercial opportunities and forge a more informed, efficient and transparent marketplace.

(In the Philippines, APREA’s membership includes major real еstatе players such as Ayala Land, Century Properties, Robinsons Land, SM Prime Holdings and Vista Land. Financiers, research and advisory firms, and asset owners also comprise the APREA group, including CB Richard Ellis Investors, Colliers International Philippines, Credit Suisse (Hongkong) Limited (Philippines Branch), Goldman Sachs, Isla Lipana & Co./Pricewaterhouse Coopers, KPMG ManabatSanagustin & Co., Jones Lang LaSalle Philippines, JP Morgan Chase Bank, Macquarie Group Limited, and SGV & Co. – Ernst & Young among other distinguished members.)