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Disadvantage turned to success


Flor G. Tarriela

Flor G. Tarriela


I was invited by my sister Kay to lunch with Israel Ambassador Effie Ben Matityau and his lovely wife Lizia, the former Panama Ambassador to Vietnam. I find Israel amazing, a desert and yet it is able to export practically ANY temperate/tropical fruits and vegetables.Its average per capita income is about $40,000 and their farmers’ income is way above the average.In the Philippines, we all know most farmers are still in the subsistence level. Poverty, according to Ambassador Effie, is not just a condition but a state of mind, a dependency, even a culture. How to get out of this dependency mode? Need interventions. Such as education and teaching skills to small farmers to produce exactly what’s needed by the market. Middle-sized farmers can partner with the smaller farmers to buy their produce and sell outside. And the capital to be given should be inputs, he emphasized, such as seeds/fertilizers, and not money to achieve the desired produce.

Israel is very productive yet it does not have much natural resource.Ambassador Effie said that “Necessity is the mother of Invention”. You need to know your comparative advantage. In agriculture, Israeli farmers look at their farms as a business.They don’t grow crops, they grow income. So in Israel they decided to grow high value crops for higher income. In the Department of Agriculture, we have Usec. Evelyn Lavina for High Value Crops.

According to Harbest President Toto Barcelona, Ambassador Effie started the Mashav program which trained thousands of college students from the Philippines to Israel; 900 students per year for 9 months. Toto himself was a Mashav trainee. Soon to move, Ambassador Effie is an advocate of the Foundation for Private Partnerships and definitely has excellent ideas.When I said, oh you’re somebody we need to help us then. He immediately said “no, not help but a partner,”

He said it’s now a new world and successful traditional companies ten (10) years ago are now history. Need high technology to compete. Do you know that WAZE and USB were invented by Israelis? How is it possible to generate all these new innovation? It definitely didn’t happen accidentally. It’s very intentional. He said that the right ecosystem working together should be in place to jump start Venture Capital which he aptly calls “Adventure Capital”. Business taps academe which does a lot of research and together they develop new ideas and innovate.If they find it good enough, even on conceptual basis, they submit to government where it is thoroughly screened and government gives seed capital to start up the concept. If the project fails, you don’t owe the government anything. With the successful concept idea, financing no longer a problem as banks are very willing to fund.

The closest in the Philippines is the Match Roadshow held on July 9 in Manila and on July 10 in Cebu sponsored by ASEAN NEGOSYO, PCCI and SGV. The Match platform facilitates deals by showcasing ASEAN start-ups and linking them with potential global and local investors.

The Philippines and Israel have a very close relationship. Israel recognizes the Philippines for saving 1,200 Jews during the Holocaust by accepting Jewish refugees in1941. The United Nations declared Israel as an Independent Nation in 1948. The Philippines role was crucial as then UN President Carlos P. Romulo broke the tie in favor of Israel’s independence.Truly, the Philippines has been a blessing to Israel, says Ambassador Effie.

Speaking of blessings, the Metro Manila Celebration for Will Graham (grandson of Billy Graham who is coming to Manila on February 15-17 2019) sponsored a Market Place Event “Blessed to be a Blessing” held last Saturday with guest speaker CHICK-FIL-A Senior Executive Greg Thompson.CHICK-FIL-A was founded by S. Truett Cathy, the largest US chicken restaurant chain specializing in chicken sandwiches with 2,300 outlets of about 100,000 employees. Remarkably, S. Truett Cathy was born poor, yet he was able to establish a debt free $9 billion revenue business and died a billionaire in 2014. He was an ordinary student with a speech impediment, yet he was awarded 35 doctorate degrees and gave scholarships of more than $37million.

Chick-Fil-A’s business philosophy is: “We should be about more than just selling chicken, we should be a part of our customers’ lives and the communities in which we exist.We are not in the chicken business.We are in the people business.” S. Truett Cathy has the right perspective and business model.In whatever industry we are in, whether in the food, retail, banking industry etc., truly we are in the business of serving people. He also followed the Biblical principles of Servant leadership, closed on Sundays, 2nd Mile Service (do the extra mile), Stewardship and the Golden Rule on Relationships and People.He definitely knows his Priority, his Purpose and where he gets his Power.

Israel, a young desert country leads in food production and in technology. Handicapped Truett Cathy becomes a billionaire food chain leader. Inspirational stories despite great odds. Disadvantage should not be limiting.

Ms. Tarriela is Chairman of Philippine National Bank. She is the first Filipina Vice President of Citibank N.A., and formerly Undersecretary of Finance and a 2018 Inspiring Filipina awardee on Intrapreneurship.She is a natural farmer and an environmentalist. ftarriela@yahoo.com

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