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Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala on The Greatest Challenges of Our Time

Here are the highlights from JAZA's New Year message to the Ayala Group.
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Last Friday, Jaime Augusto Zóbel de Ayala delivered a companywide New Year address to the Ayala Group, in which he spoke about the challenges that the world has had to face over the past year. The chairman and CEO covered a broad range of relevant social and socioeconomic issues that concern everyone—not just his employees—and recommended ways that the company can respond and adapt to the times.

He starts, fittingly, by acknowledging the global rise of populism, and attributing it to the vast income inequality that has left entire nation-states scarred. He recommends inclusive growth as a way of addressing the divisiveness of populism, and pledges the Ayala Corporation's efforts to that end. JAZA then goes on to tackle the effects of globalization and technology in the modern world, eventually stressing the urgency of vocation-oriented educational systems and efficient urban infrastructure to the Philippines' ability to keep up.

Here are excerpts from his message:

The heightened social tensions in various parts of the world have revealed a frustration with the status quo, and a diminished faith in traditional institutions in providing solutions to our many needs.

The election of President Duterte, an unorthodox leader for the Philippines, was fueled by the frustration of many citizens over their desire for employment, for an upgrade in the many services they expect from the private and public sectors, and for their desire to participate more formally in the economic growth of the country.

Lack of sufficient opportunity, uneven wealth and income gaps, and a desire for fair progressive employment seemed to be shared themes across many nation states. We all have to reflect on these frustrations, be agents for progressive change, and contributors, through our institutions, to helping alleviate these concerns.

Globalization has, in many ways, been a boon for the Philippines. A McKinsey study cites that with the global flows of goods, services, finance, data, and people, world GDP is over 10 percent higher, than if economies had remained closed.

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The Philippines is an excellent success story of how the liberalization of borders has benefited emerging markets, giving rise to the IT-BPM sector and the overseas Filipino service sector that have been consistent drivers of our economic growth over the past decade.

Globalization encourages the most efficient allocation of resources; including labor, capital, and land, and it has created both winners and losers in the process.

Technological advancement can come back to disrupt industries in our own country. The situation may have also been exacerbated by the accelerated pace at which technology has developed in the past decade alone. We cannot rest easy.

It is imperative that we design our technical and vocational education system to address the required skillsets in an era of technological disruption.

We entered the education space four years ago when the impact of technological trends was not as pronounced as it is today. Even back then, we observed the astounding mismatch between the skills learned in school against those that are required by employers.

As our cities become highly urbanized, it is equally critical to enable mobility to manage density, create access, and connect people, goods, and services. Urban cities are vital in creating a critical mass of consumers, talent, and resources. It fosters the creative combustion that brings life, new ideas, entrepreneurial vigor, diverse cultures and viewpoints, an innovative verve, and increased productivity to urban centers.

To continue building trust with communities, businesses must contribute to society as a whole, and ensure the progressive development of the markets they serve.

Ignoring the challenges faced by both global and national communities today threatens our ability to create long-term value and jeopardizes enterprises, markets, and entire societies. In the Philippines, our need to address economic inclusivity and build on sustainable business practices remains of paramount importance.

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Stay positive and optimistic as we work to find solutions to unlocking the many opportunities that exist to improve people’s lives.

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