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Promoting area and regional development

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SWIMMING AGAINST THE CURRENT

By DR. JESUS P. ESTANISLAO

Dr. Jesus P. Estanislao

Dr. Jesus P. Estanislao

Among the strategic priorities put forward under DREAM PHILIPPINES is for every enterprise — whether in the public or private sector — to include the promotion of area or regional development in their enterprise transformation road map.

This is essential. With all the current talk about federalism, there is often too much emphasis on form and structure, with very little thought given to the essential subject matter and substance, i.e., for every area or region of our country to develop as quickly as possible through smart use (with conservation and improvement of their original state) of their respective natural and other (including human) resources. Since this subject matter is often relegated to the background or forgotten, it is essential for transforming enterprises, therefore, to put it within their transformation program radar screen.

But how may this be done?

Dr. Fred Pascual, ICD CEO, has come up with some very specific suggestions: “Universities and other higher education institutions could play a pivotal role in AREA & REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT. Using the hub-and-spokes model, a given educational institution  can help in sustaining the development of an area or region by serving as the focal point (the hub) and tie in the various stakeholders (private companies, government agencies and offices, civil society organisations, and their experts — the spokes) in a focused and coordinated way. A hub can be considered a center of strength that serves to influence and drive others (the spokes) to adopt an agenda, cause or scheme. The spokes, on the other hand, are expected to support and work in partnership with the hub to implement the initiatives and programs that the hub spearheads. The model focuses not only on strong connection and effective distribution, but more importantly on continuing cooperation or partnership among experts. The activities of, and contributions from, the spokes as driven and coordinated by the hub can generate a synergy of long-term solutions for a region or industry sector served by the hub-and-spoke organisation.”

The key concepts are coordination and long-term development horizon. These are fundamental to any governance and transformation program.

Dr. Pascual continues: “Creating R & D hub-and-spoke organizations focused on regions can build or enhance regional competitiveness. The idea is to create such a network of experts for a region based on the region’s priority, (preferences), or niche of industries.” For a higher-education institution (a university or college) to “serve as an effective development hub in an area or region: this would stimulate it to become a paragon of good governance there.” It would need to have its own transformation program, and then go on an aggressive and effective outreach initiative so as to “serve as an effective coordinator of all the live forces within an area, region, or sector, which its experts can focus on and specialise in.”

It will also have to do much more as an active proponent of area, regional, or sectoral development. These are the final suggestions of Dr. Pascual: “Since productivity is determined by fundamentals that are in place (or ‘local comparative advantage’ in economics), it is also the role of the hub-and-spokes organization, besides steering the region towards innovation, to ensure that basic needs for R & D to run efficiently are present in the region: hard infrastructure, i.e., facilities such as railways, roads, and Internet connections, and even such other essential services (such as water supply and electricity); services (both basic services as in health care and those that add value to products such as food processing), and disaster prevention and mitigation”.

It is a long list of requirements. However, someone has to do it for the sake of the development of an area, region, or sector. And perhaps, the higher-education institution is one of the better-positioned agents that can promote and coordinate initiatives to meet this long list of requirements in any given area or region.

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