Consumer confidence key to recovery

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    ZOBEL

    A top business leader yesterday warned of further inequality in the country following the pandemic and stressed the need to restore consumer confidence as a pathway to recovery.

    In his remarks at the 9th Arangkada Forum, Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala, chairman of Ayala Corp., also highlighted the need to ensure the predictability of policy and the regulatory environment in the country, and to further improve the ease of doing business in the country as it gears towards a post-new coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) scenario.

    “Business thrives in an environment where the rules are clear, consistent, and fairly applied. Enshrining stability and predictability, I believe, will set the Philippines alongside its peers when countries will compete for investments to boost their recovery in a post-COVID (world),” Zobel said.

    But he pointed out that recovery in the country will not be the same for everyone.

    “We already see today that while capital markets are open to large, established institutions who thus have more options to endure the downturn, the drop in consumer demand has left many MSMEs (micro, small and medium enterprises) in a more challenged position,” he said.

    “Those already most vulnerable stand to become even more so. There is clear and present risk of a bifurcation in recovery, where inequalities widen. The road ahead will not be easy or straightforward. But we believe there are fundamental ways that we can support the recovery of our country, participating in a `whole of society’ approach,” Zobel added.

    To achieve this, Zobel said the country should first effectively manage the health situation; second, increase the ease of doing business; and third, restore and encourage consumer confidence.

    “It is imperative for both business recovery and consumer confidence that we manage the health situation,” said Zobel whose company is part of various private-public partnership in the fight against the COVID-19 – from testing to vaccine procurement.

    According to Zobel, restoring and encouraging a renewed sense of consumer confidence underpins the country’s recovery.

    “More than firing up manufacturing and the supply side, we need to resuscitate demand. The Philippines has been among the hardest hit economies because we are among those who are most consumption-driven,” he said.

    For consumer demand to return, Zobel said it is imperative that “we create an environment where our fellowmen feel safe, financially secure, and confident about the prospects of the future.”

    “We need to provide `credibly-safe’ environments in our workplaces, in our public transport systems, in the world of retail, commerce and payments,” he added.

    But not all consumers, not all businesses have the luxury of going digital.

    “Our recovery will be sustainable only if it lifts the tide across a broad base. We have a responsibility as institutions to widen our definition of who we are responsible for – beyond those who provide us capital and labor and those within our traditional ecosystems of partners, clients and customers. Beyond these, we are responsible for and accountable to our broader host communities,” Zobel said. (I. Isip)