MANILA, Philippines – Vice President Leni Robredo on Friday, April 28, urged business leaders and policy makers in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) region to create "inclusive business models" that will help the poor.
"While the number of Asian billionaires are growing, ASEAN is still home to many of the world’s poor," Robredo said in her keynote speech at the ASEAN Prosperity for All Summit on Friday, April 28. (READ: Crazy rich ASEANs: Billionaires from the Southeast Asian region)
The summit is on inclusive growth and poverty reduction, and the role of the micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in it. (READ: ASEAN integration an opportunity, not a threat to PH SMEs)
Robredo said that MSMEs have not yet contributed to inclusive growth in the region because of the abusive practices of businessmen and middlemen. She said the welfare of MSMEs should be placed at the center of the ASEAN Summit, which the Philippines is hosting this year.
The Vice President challenged her influential audience to think about the most disadvantaged sector of society in coming up with their business models.
"So as we go back to our drawing boards to think about coming up with inclusive business models, or how to rethink our structures and institutions, let us all remember that the final scorecard is what happens to the last, the least, and the lost," she said.
"Prosperity for all and inclusive growth will heal our conflicted world," she said.
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak made a similar call in the same forum. (READ: Malaysia's Najib: Prosperity for all crucial in fight vs extremism)
Robredo said there should be a convergence of efforts and resources of the Philippine government, other ASEAN member states, and the private sector. (READ: Balancing profit with inclusivity key to keeping ASEAN together)
"Convergence must happen on at least two levels: within our governments, and among governments of ASEAN nations. The role of the state is to facilitate convergence and communication, encourage technology and innovation, and create financing mechanisms, so that our MSMEs can survive cut-throat competition," she said.
A model she presented to the business leaders is the anti-poverty program of her office, Angat Buhay.
Under the program, the Office of the Vice President (OVP) serves as a bridge between resources from the government and private sector, and small-scale enterprises and communities in need of financial or technical aid.
Among the OVP's beneficiaries are coconut sugar farmers in Alabat, Quezon; coffee farmers in Tampacan, South Cotabato; and calamansi farmers in Cabanatuan City, Nueva Ecija.
She cited Jollibee Food Corporation's partnership with onion farmers in San Jose City in Nueva Ecija. Jolibee has provided the farmers with financial and technical assistance; in turn, the fastfood giant is now sourcing its onion supply from that community.
"Let me point out that these are not doleouts or charitable activities. Partnerships like these should be profitable if they are to be sustainable – and they are. On top of being profitable, these partnerships also solve big business’ supply chain problems," said Robredo. – Rappler.com