Cebu City – In 2018, the Country suffered a steep decline in overall competitiveness. Ranked no. 41 in 2017, our overall competitiveness dropped to no. 50 in 2018 before slightly recovering to no. 46 in 2019. Domestically, the competitiveness of Cebu province has been erratic and inconsistent over the last 5 years. From as high as 3rd most competitive province in 2015, Cebu ranked no. 44 in 2017 before posting a recovery to no. 25 in 2018. Cebu City on the other hand has seemingly stagnated over the last 3 years with respect to its overall competitiveness. Government efficiency and economic dynamism remain to be the 2 lowest scores for Cebu.
Virgilio “Nonoy” Espeleta, President of Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCCI) is adamant that Cebu should not be left behind as the Duterte administration push for regional and countryside developments. “Against this backdrop that we wanted to get the pulse of the Cebu business community on which areas they think are critical to boost the competitiveness of their businesses and Cebu as a whole. The survey aims to highlight obstacles and enablers directly impacting the competitiveness of Cebu”.
The Top 3 identified enablers for business are: 1) linkages, partnerships and business networks; 2) lower cost of doing business and easier compliance with regulations; 3) access to credit and marketing facilities. On the other hand, the Top 3 identified obstacles are: 1) government regulations and elements of corruption; 2) high cost of utilities and supplies; 3) lack of quality physical and technological infrastructure. Espeleta acknowledged that while change cannot be expected to happen overnight, he is hopeful that this will drum up dialogue between the public and private sector and ultimately lead to reforms and more progressive policies to drive Cebu’s competitiveness to the next level.
The survey also highlighted 2 major concerns among business owners when it comes to cost and ease of doing business: 1) transparency of dealings with various government agencies; and 2) concern on informal payments. The responses are consistent and comparable to the result of a separate survey published for SMEs coming from NCR and CALABARZON. This indicates that the concerns raised by Cebu businessmen are shared by other regions, specially among SMEs.
CCCI, based on several roundtable discussions with business owners and consultations with key stakeholders, identified the following areas of public and private collaboration: 1) establishment of Investment Concierge Center; 2) Anti Red Tape Agency (ARTA) collaboration desk; 3) streamlining and digitizing the business permit and licensing system; 4) expanded incentives and assistance program for SMEs and start-ups; and 5) creation of Cebu business advisory council/committee. CCCI believes that these 5 areas are not only actionable ways forward, but also highly impactful in making sure that the competitiveness agenda is pushed in all fronts.
The survey ultimately highlighted the resiliency of Cebu and the steady optimism of business owners. 53% of the respondents are very confident that their business will grow in the next 3 years, while 49% say they are very confident about the prospects and overall competitiveness of Cebu within the same time frame.
“We thank the 204 business owners and executives who have shared their insights with us,” says Mr. Espeleta. CCCI believes that a vibrant and competitive Cebu calls for strengthening of government institutions and making sure that regulations and policy directions are turned from obstacles to enablers. The business community should work collaboratively with the government, national and local, to ensure continued and shared prosperity for all. (DYARNewsCenter/JB/PR)