Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) rock. They number in the millions and, collectively, are the bedrock of the Philippine economy. They account for up to 10 percent of the value of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) and fuel the massive expansion of the Philippines’ retail and entertainment industries.
But the question most often asked about this disturbing dependence on OFWs is, this:
Are OFWs part of the future of a truly prosperous Philippines?
The answer to this question is most likely to be a key issue that will mark the administration of whoever will be winning the presidential elections in 2016 and, most likely, subsequent ones.
It seems, the Philippines’ party days relying on the bonanza of more than $20 billion in remittances that fill the pockets of Filipino islanders to boost consumption and prop up the economy are nearing an end. According to a Bloomberg Business report, the Philippines’ 10 million-strong OFW remittance mill may be badly hurt by crashing global oil prices.
“Before, when the trouble would be concentrated in one of the countries in the Middle East and North Africa, the workers could just simply move to a neighboring country and find employment,” central bank Governor Amando Tetangco said Jan. 25. “Now the trouble is more widespread.”
As well as declining oil prices, a more general slowdown in global trade is affecting the job prospects of Filipino seamen. Many drillers and oil-service companies have suspended operations and shipping companies are also hurting, said Nelson Ramirez, the president of United Filipino Seafarers.
“I have talked to one of the biggest crew suppliers of offshore vessels,” he said in Manila. “They have many laid-up ships. There will be more job losses.”
The OFW industry should be regarded by the Philippine government as a sunset industry that it needs to get rid of. There should be a strategy in place to wean the Philippine economy off the easy money of foreign employment. This will involve implementation of robust measures to lay the foundation for a strong capital-intensive domestic industry that is fuelled by productivity, innovation, and an appetite for entrepreneurial venture.
In short, it’s time Filipinos learn to make money off its own cleverness and industry. That is the challenge for the Philippines as it aspires to takes its place amongst the truly great nations aiming to compete for a big piece of the pie in the 21st Century. It will be a world for the taking — not by passive people but by people who rely on themselves to succeeed.