Growth, prosperity and duty

By Cirilo P. Noel

First Published in Business World (12/17/2012)

Although Typhoon Pablo brought unexpectedly sweeping devastation to some provinces in Mindanao – dampening the usually festive holiday season – the tragedy once again showed the innate compassion of the Filipino with the outpouring of spontaneous generosity and concern. The poignant lesson in this catastrophe is that, time and again, we as a people have shown the world the true meaning of resiliency – our capacity to withstand and overcome challenges.

Resiliency has also been reflected in the Philippine economy, which has been noticed recently in light of the Eurozone fallout. With the economy’s impressive growth (at 7.1% in the third quarter of the year), observers are keeping an eye on the Philippines as an investment destination that has so far withstood the global crises. Driven mainly by domestic consumer spending and fuelled consistently by OFW remittances at about P21 billion annually, the country is now being seen as an economy with the ability to sustain robust growth. In addition, tourism is on the upswing with already one million visitors more than 2011 figures. Most importantly, with the current administration’s thrust to fight corruption and instill good governance, the Philippines’ ranking has improved in Transparency International’s corruption perception.

These are, indeed, portents of great things to come for the Philippines. The business community has not felt this positive for quite some time. The country is beginning to articulate a budding confidence that change can and will happen. We have always aspired for national development and an end to inequality in our society. Both have seemed elusive but we now have the opportunity to help the country realize these goals — through what Government and the private sector have identified as inclusive growth.

The National Government’s Philippine Development Plan for 2011-2016 outlines the components of inclusive growth. In a nutshell, inclusive growth refers to the country’s economic and social progress that can be sustained with the end-view of reducing poverty. In pursuing sustainable growth, the country must hurdle major deficiencies in infrastructure, human development (including basic education and public health), environmental-ecological balance and governance. While these problems may take generations to overcome, there are realistic measures that are already underway, such as investments in infrastructure, human development programs, job creation, and transparent governance.

Certainly, business organizations already help in employment generation and in attracting major investors (both foreign and local), for example, to participate in the Public-Private Partnerships or the PPP. One area where private businesses can enhance this thrust is in the area of governance, in “systems that promote objective decision-making, professionalism, transparency and accountability.” The Philippine Development Plan singles out the role of private business: “A big part of the solution to the governance problem…lies outside government itself and involves the active participation of private business, civil society and the media in governance monitoring and feedback. ”

This call to assist in national development has become a way of life for us in SGV & Co. It is a duty we take to heart. Since its inception in 1946, the Firm’s mission has always been linked with the country’s advancement. The words of our Founder Washington SyCip reverberate in our halls to this day. He has repeatedly said, “A professional firm in a developing nation should actively promote the economic growth of that nation; it can prosper only if that nation prospers.” This is manifested in our core values, the quality of our services, and in allied programs that we offer to our clients and the public at large.
In the 2012 edition of the BusinessWorld Top 1000 Corporations in the Philippines, a section was devoted to the auditors of the top domestic corporations. The article pointed out that SGV has continued to keep the lead in the audit practice for the past six decades. When asked why the Firm remains dominant with nearly 40% of market share, I attributed this leadership to the depth of our talent, the extent of our expertise and the strength of our principles. These to my mind are also the ways by which organizations can contribute to human development and governance – two major components of inclusive growth.

I have said that in SGV, we continually challenge ourselves to raise the bar and to sustain the high quality of our services on both local and global levels. We do this by constantly learning and upgrading our skills. We cannot stand still while changes occur at such a rapid pace around us. We invest heavily in training and technology to keep abreast with the latest in financial reporting standards, audit methodologies, tax rules and regulations, and economic developments, among others. And, unknown to many, we do not keep this knowledge to ourselves; we share it to benefit other organizations.

Through our Thought Leadership Program, we hope to enhance the professional development of others in the business community. By sharing best practices, industry expertise and other specialized knowledge, we espouse continuing education that spurs human development. It has been said that doing business in the Philippines is very complicated; and we assist both local and foreign investors navigate through complex regulations. Aside from human development, private businesses can also help achieve inclusive growth by practicing good governance. In SGV, we constantly reaffirm our values of excellence, integrity, objectivity, and stewardship. These guide our people’s day to day actions and the decision-making that is crucial in preserving our reputation.

The goals of inclusive growth are gargantuan. It will require the collaboration of all sectors in society and the genuine desire to demolish age-old barriers like corruption to achieve social equality. This is an opportune moment for us – professionals, entrepreneurs, and other players in private business – to use our collaborative skills to help National Government in the pursuit of growth. It could be our lasting gift to the country and to generations of Filipinos yet to be born.

We, in SGV & Co., also take this moment to wish our readers and the country a peaceful and prosperous New Year.

Cirilo P. Noel is the Chairman and Managing Partner of SGV & Co.

This article is for general information only and is not a substitute for professional advice where the facts and circumstances warrant. The views and opinion expressed above are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of SGV & Co.