In a coastal community which makes its living from the sea, businesses revolve around the fishing industry – net makers, boat yards and so on. Peripheral industries spring up bringing employment, further sustaining the local economy.
No one questions the fishermen or the job they do each day. In fact, the reverse; they support their enterprise. Indeed, as they haul their daily catch ashore and to the fish market, it’s a sign that all is well. Even those not directly involved with the industry – teachers for example – remain supportive of it. After all, it’s the fishermen who’ve developed the local economy; it’s them they can thank for their jobs.
They have every reason, every incentive, to be protective of it, therefore. And they are. If tempestuous seas prevent the fishermen from venturing out in their boats, the community understands and rallies round to support them while they’re unable to earn. And stand by them until such time as they can.
And as time passes, the community supplies new generations of fishermen. For those living in that coastal community it’s an honourable and worthwhile trade, and one that must be maintained.
That, in a nutshell, is “Cultural Support” – a dynamic which allows the enterprises to flourish; a symbiosis by which the community thrives through the efforts of the fishermen and the fishermen thrive through the community’s efforts to support it.
But maybe it wasn’t always like that. What happened when the first fisherman decided to make a living from the sea in that place? Maybe he had to borrow money to buy both the wood for his boat and the rope for his nets.
Support for his business would not have been universal. Many would see him as crazy; a risk taker. They’d shun him; make no effort to support his enterprise – even though he knew his business plan was sound. That not only could he make a living from fishing, but that he could bring prosperity to his community as well.
And if his battles with the sea initially produced no fish, what little support he had had would likely quickly disappear. As too would any source of funding to replace his lost and damaged nets.
And there, in a nutshell, is the situation which many entrepreneurs have faced – and sadly, will continue to. The fact is, without ‘Cultural Support’ it’s extremely difficult for the entrepreneur to gain the traction he/she needs to move the enterprise forward. Of course, there are many exceptions, but in the main an entrepreneur’s success is tied to community support.
In a broader context, in order for entrepreneurship itself to develop – and bring with it new businesses, new products and services, and new jobs – Cultural Support is essential. It needs that backing to propel it. Like all sectors of the economy, business seeks to engage the best and brightest minds available.
And to attract them, it needs to be viewed positively. Thus, perceptions of entrepreneurs are critical. If they’re seen as crooks and fat cats, for example, the likelihood of recruiting people of the right calibre will be seriously compromised. Conversely, if they’re seen as nation builders and pioneers, the sector – and the economy it serves – will benefit from an intake of people with the right qualities to energise those enterprises; actually, to develop them and make them even more successful.
With that explanation, we turn to the 2018 Global Entrepreneurship Index (GEI) and the section which deals specifically with Cultural Support. The GEI, produced by the Global Entrepreneurship Development Institute, evaluates 137 countries world wide. Here, we’re concerned with how the Philippines rates in terms of its peer group, its fellow members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean).
For the purpose of evaluating Cultural Support, the GEI’s compilers asked these two questions – “How does the country view entrepreneurship?” And, “Is it easy to choose entrepreneurship or does corruption make entrepreneurship difficult relative to other career paths?”
For Cultural Support, here are the Asean scores. Singapore, 72%; Brunei, 34%; Indonesia, 31%; Philippines, 29%; Thailand, 26%; Vietnam, 24%; Malaysia, 22%; Laos, 20%; Myanmar, 18%; Cambodia, 11%.
Forget the Philippines position here – with the exception really of Singapore, all it says is that it’s doing less badly than six other members of Asean. So, let’s look at this in starker terms; 29% cultural support means that there’s a 71% lack of cultural support. That’s the true picture and it illustrates just how dismally entrepreneurship is actually viewed within the Philippine culture.
As far as the GEI’s second question is concerned, undoubtedly the ubiquitous corporate scandals that plague the country will have taken their toll. But probably more than that will have been the general view of oligarchs with their closed-shop mentality which in the past has seriously hampered the free spirit of the entrepreneur. Going up against them with a new idea, they might argue, would be a hiding to nothing. But that’s why the Philippines needs to shake off the fetters of the past.
More generally, as a region which is economically charged right now, what those results show is that it’s making its mark here and there largely without any real measure of cultural support. And that’s a real lost opportunity which eventually could come back to haunt these countries.