There has been news from Senator Bam Aquino’s Facebook account that he has ” filed seven bills that aim to empower the poor through jobs and livelihood opportunities”.
Disclaimer: I am not proclaiming this to advertise Sen. Aquino’s initiatives and endeavors – this is merely to give insights, reactions, and comments on what he endeavors to do. After all, these are the advocacies that are indeed close to my heart as an aspiring entrepreneur, educator, and as a current researcher on the said field.
I know that as a fresh graduate from DLSU, I still have much to learn when it comes to CSR, social entrepreneurship, and the policies that may or may not help these movements achieve their intended benefit: progress and solving society’s most pressing problems.
Although some people in the web and even in media doubt Sen. Aquino’s intentions for running in office as Senator (some stating that this may just be a ploy to extend the “Aquino dynasty”), I support Bam because of his track record as a practitioner of social entrepreneurship. This is why seeing news from Facebook that he has filed pro-poor bills instigated somewhat a kind of relief in me; that this man perhaps indeed has a plan to bring the synthesis of his social entrepreneurial experience into influencing policy-making.
I am hopeful that this is not just a ningas-kugon attempt; only time will tell. Let time be the one to test Sen. Bam’s resolve in influencing social entrepreneurship and poverty alleviation through policies.
Onto my humble insights.
I want to zero in on two particular bills that Sen. Bam filed below:
2. The Fair Competition Bill, which aims to “protect consumer welfare, advance domestic and international trade and sustained economic development by… regulating monopolies, anti-competitive agreements, abuse of dominant power, and anti-competitive measures.” It also establishes the Philippine Fair Competition Commission;
7. An expansion of the Poverty Reduction through Social Entrepreneurship Bill (PRESENT), filed in the 15th Congress, which supports the creation of social enterprises and offers incentives and benefits to business that genuinely help the poor.
First, let me acknowledge my practical limitations as I admit that I still have a lack of experience in terms of doing actual social entrepreneurship work. However, I am an avid learner of the field and have read researches and books that may perhaps arm me with enough tidbits to utilize in making comments or insights. Should readers agree or disagree, feel free to discuss via the comments section below this post.
Personally I believe that the two bills are benevolent in spirit. On the first bill, I would just like to raise Muhammad Yunus’s insights on social entrepreneurship, which he wrote in his book “Building Social Business” (2010). Yunus propagates that since social enterprises are true businesses, then ideally, there should be minimal incentives or support from policy – social enterprises should let market forces or the “invisible hand” of competition determine whether a social business idea is viable or not.
I have two conflicting opinions on this one. On one vantage point, Yunus’s claims are meritorious; a social business enterprise must be viable and should not have to rely on incentives to be truly viable. If a social business enterprise needs to rely on incentives, then what happens if the law is changed for whatever reasons? What if political factors crush the incentives? Then the social business enterprise loses its crutch… then becomes crippled? These are indeed valid points of view and my recommendation to Sen. Bam is to not “baby” social business enterprises too much that should a law be ramified or lose its implementation, the business would invariably suffer and need to close. This view emphasizes the need of true sustainability, meaning the capacity of a business to be at an on-going concern without the need to rely on policies as crutches.
On another vantage point, since social enterprises chase not one but two bottomlines (even three, if they pursue financial profits, social responsibility, and environmental sustainability), it is only fitting that there should be separate incentives that can aid their growth. Social business enterprises can be different species if compared to traditional corporations; and perhaps different rules and policies must govern these enterprises.
I wholeheartedly support social enterprises as vehicles towards poverty and even environmental problems alleviation. However, my only concern is the measurement of how a business “genuinely helps the poor”. In light of the sickening pork barrel scam that used bogus NGOs as puppets of politicians’ puppets, there is indeed a concern on implementation. What is the meaning of “genuinely helping the poor”? Will it include multinational or traditional corporations with CSR programs? Will philanthropy be considered?
I am coming from the point-of-view that there is no universal social entrepreneurship definition as of the moment. Some entities may use this bill to put a facade of authentic social entrepreneurship wherein they’re indeed traditional profit-maximizing entities with social responsibility on the side. I believe the spirit of this bill is not on traditional businesses, but more on actual for-profit social enterprises that have a hard time balancing financial and social objectives.
My recommendation to Sen. Bam is to develop transparent measures that will decipher whether an existing enterprise is truly a social enterprise. We do not want incentives, funds, etc to go to greedy businesses that will utilize this bill and wear on superficial masks. There must be a strict way of determining whether a social enterprise qualifies for benefits under this bill.
I hope my humble thoughts can help people recognize the value of social entrepreneurship and how policy can influence their existence. This blog post is written in the spirit of pursuing the Common Good, in the name of practice, continuous learning and education, and research.