Asia needs to help the poor more, say philanthropists
MANILA, Philippines – With the center of the world’s economic gravity shifting to Asia, now is the time to create its own identity to help its poor, some of the region’s premier philanthropists agreed at a panel of Forbes Global CEO Conference 2015 on October 14.
“This is the time for Asia to shine. We’ve imported a lot of philanthropic models from the West but Asia is different and has its own unique contexts,” said Laurence Lien in describing his motivation for creating his Asian Philanthropy Circle, a new initiative that convenes Asian philanthropists to act collectively.
A big example of this is that the role of the family is much stronger in Asia, with business often intertwined with the family, Lien said, adding that the role of religion as a motivator also plays a much stronger factor.
He also pointed out that non-governmental organizations have a different way of dealing with governments saying; “quite frankly, they never leave you alone to do your philanthropy. There’s still a lot of distrust.”
Asia also features numerous philanthropists with entrepreneurial skillsets which Lien said could be harnessed to create businesses aimed at social transformation.
To develop a regional identity, homegrown models for development need to be created and Singapore’s efforts with socialized housing can serve as a shining example, said billionaire Vincent Tan, the founder of the Berjaya Group of Companies.
“In my assessment, a lot of countries, save for Singapore, have failed in being able to provide housing for the poor, which is a shame as it creates good foundation for a country,” he said.
Tan explained that the political stability needed for economic growth is a happy by-product of a housing scheme, quoting the late founder of Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew’s assertion that “If you build the poor a home, there’s no reason for them to go out and burn other people’s homes down."
It can also lead to more capable and better citizens, he added, as having reliable housing leads to a stable childhood.
In the absence of an effective socialized housing scheme, private institutions can step in and make a difference, like Gawad Kalinga.
“The work Gawad Kalinga has done in building homes for the poor is truly amazing and it can serve as a great model for other nations in mobilizing private investment and driving investment in developing housing,” he said.
It isn’t just idle talk either as Tan himself has committed to donating P300 million ($6.52 million) for them to build 2,000 to 3,000 homes and has also personally visited the sites in development. (READ: Berjaya's Tan provides hosuing for typhoon Sendong survivors)
Ultimately, the similarities economically and culturally among Asian nations makes it possible to scale up initiatives like this, Lien said.
While recognizing that most philanthropists prefer focusing locally, "pulling them together and pooling ideas allow for possibilities to do things that we never thought of before," Lien added.
"After all, it doesn’t matter whether you’re hungry in India, China or the Philippines, you’re still still hungry. The human condition is the same," he said. – Rappler.com
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