Businesses commit to help fight poverty

Friday, July 8, 2005

Businesses committed yesterday to help raise P3.2 billion over the next four years to finance programs on reducing poverty, promoting entrepreneurship, and improving education, among others.

The fund raising, with money to come from businesses themselves or from funding agencies, will be facilitated by the Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP), a private and nonprofit foundation dedicated to promoting business commitment to social development.

PBSP Chairman Manuel V. Pangilinan, who is also chairman of Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co., said the foundation was aligning its objectives and programs with the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals, as well as the Arroyo administration’s 10-point agenda.

“Both are, quite frankly, strategic but ambitious in scope and in many respects. That is why we have got to focus on specific targets. Business has a very important role to play. Compared to other sectors of the society, it is the most organized. If you could bring the disciplines of business and its resources to help the poor, then that becomes its greatest contribution to the Millennium Development Goals,” he said.

Of the P3.2 billion to be raised, around P1.13 billion will go to poverty reduction, P1.12 billion to small and medium enterprise development, P830 million to basic education, and P120 million to water and health.

Poverty alleviation is one of the eight development goals that the country committed to the United Nations to achieve by 2015.

The specific goals set by UN for its members were halving extreme poverty and hunger; achieving universal primary education; promoting gender equality; reducing child mortality; improving maternal health; combating HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases; ensuring environmental sustainability, and promoting a global partnership for development.

PBSP had previously published “Responding to the Millennium Development Challenge: A Road-map for Business,” which provided a guide on how companies could contribute to achieving these development goals.

The publication said the private sector could participate based on its sphere of influence on core business, social investment, and policy advocacy. Targets were also divided into four major clusters: business and poverty, education, and health and environment.

PBSP’s Pedro E. Roxas said concrete programs were identified by the various clusters as the areas of focus for business.

“The programs were chosen because they have proven impacts and are replicable. PBSP, as a collective of more than 190 corporations dedicated to alleviating poverty and continuously promoting the practice of corporate social responsibility among the wider business community, has committed to fully align its institutional plan towards the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals,” he said.

“The Millennium Development Goals are not about philantrophy. It is in the interest of business that the country has a wealthy, well-educated, and economically capable population. Business can contribute to achieving these with sound core business strategies. We are now presenting the business and Millennium Development Goals programs as options,” he added.

For its part, the UN Development Program urged businesses to focus on the bottom-of-the-pyramid market, or people who were earning below $2 (P115) daily.

“I call upon the business sector in the Philippines to make poverty history now and achieve the [UN Millennium Development Goals] by 2015. Businesses must create opportunity for the bottom of the pyramid,” UNDP Resident Representative Kyo Naka told the Corporate Social Responsibility Expo 2005 at the Westin Philippine Plaza.

UNDP is leading efforts to help countries integrate Millennium Development Goals into their national development frameworks.

These goals are quantified targets for addressing extreme poverty while promoting gender equality, education, and environmental sustainability.

Last month the National Economic and Development Authority had reported that the Philippines was on track to achieving these development goals, but also stressed that not all targets could be achieved by 2015, as committed to the UN.

Under the state’s 2005-2010 Medium-Term Public Investment Program, the government is expec-ted to spend P718.2 billion to achieve all these development goals.

Government-owned and -controlled corporations and government financial institutions will also be asked to raise another P484.7 billion.

The private sector and local government units will be asked to shoulder P473.9 billion, while P67.2 billion will come from multilateral institutions.

Source: BusinessWorld