BY FORMER SENATE PRESIDENT MANNY VILLAR
The numbers are disheartening.
Last April 2 the country logged a total of 15,310 new COVID-19 cases (3,790 of which were backlogs). The following day the number of new cases was 12,576 which brought our active cases to a staggering 165,715. These numbers might still climb before we feel the real effect of the most recent lockdown imposed by government.
The lockdown has resulted in unemployment. The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) reported last week that the unemployment rate has increased to 8.8 percent in February compared to January’s 8.7 percent rate. Some might say that the 0.1 percentage point uptick is negligible but that actually represents 234,000 people who lost their jobs. And if we assume an average family size of 4, that 0.1 percent increase means 936,000 people have been affected by job losses this pandemic. All in all, a total of 4.187 million are without work.
To the many Filipinos who lost their employment this is the perfect time to create opportunities amid the crisis. Losing your job, while sad and initially terrifying, might just become a blessing in disguise if you can repurpose your skill and your passion to becoming an entrepreneur.
When the coronavirus hit the country last March 2020, the resulting lockdown destroyed many jobs but it also created a new breed of entrepreneurs. I have been saying this from the very start – entrepreneurs are not only front-liners, they were also the first responders to the economic crisis that accompanied the lockdown.
Many Filipinos who lost their jobs decided – mostly out of the need to survive – to take matters into their own hands and become their own bosses. They began setting up small businesses that responded to the fact that millions of Filipinos are staying home and are spending more time online.
The silver lining in all this devastation is the fact that as painful as it was to lose one’s job, it has created an impetus for people to become entrepreneurs coming up with new ideas, products, and services in the new normal.
My suggestion to those who have lost their job is that once you have dried the tears in your eyes and once your anger has subsided, start looking at how you can turn this around to become the best opportunity of your life. Start by looking at what others have done in terms of putting up small business during the pandemic.
Most commonly, people have repurposed their skills, knowledge and networks to new and emerging needs of people in the time of pandemic and lockdown. The possibilities are endless: Gym instructors became in-home personal trainers, fund managers became online financial advisors, some accountants put up online accounting consulting services. Others have made a complete pivot – pilots starting foodrelated businesses, hair dressers became chefs and started food delivery services. The opportunities are limited only by your imagination.
The important characteristics that separate entrepreneurs from others is ingenuity and agility. Successful entrepreneurs innovate, creating new ideas, products and services. They are also quick to adapt to new circumstances. The key is to match what you do best to what people need at this time.
What government needs to do is create the environment for these new entrepreneurs to thrive. The rule of thumb is: If you won’t be of any help, do not impede. So while I believe that the ayuda to be given to our people is very important, it is not a long-term strategy for economic recovery. What will propel the economy is to ensure that entrepreneurship will continue to thrive and provide livelihood to our people.
Perhaps I always see the glass as half full instead of half empty. But I truly believe that Filipino entrepreneurs will lead our recovery from this pandemic. They have done so much amid the crisis. Imagine what they can do when this pandemic is over.