I landed in Manila in February. I am an accelerator fellow in the Philippines and my work here is to accelerate and support our existing portfolio companies to grow as well as to find a new opportunity for LGT VP. Prior to this position, I was in Japan working for one of the large multinational trading firms where I was engaged in finance of the renewable energy projects around the world. It took me a lot of guts and efforts to leave my former work and came here but I am hoping the experience will be worth it.
The first impression I received from this country was how large existing gaps are among many things: standard of living, life style and education level. While there are people driving BMW and Lexus in a city, people do not even have a transportation in rural areas. While there are so many sky-high condominiums being built in a city, people are living on the street and cooking with a charcoal in a province. While there are people who graduated prestigious schools like Harvard and Stanford, rate of kids going (or graduating) to school is one of the big issues in this country. Coming from Japan where there are relatively few of these kinds of gaps, I have been struck by these gaps since I came here.
The pictures are from my first trip to one of the outskirts in Manila. You can see how much difference there exist between the city and outskirt. We departed from the center of Manila with a car. After we passed some point, we were starting to face roads with garbages, houses almost running-down and people begging on the street. At the destination, there was a large hill of garbages and people there were living around it. This is one of the areas in which Rags 2 Riches, one of our portfolio companies, supports indegenious women artisants who make their handmade products.
Some people would say that it is a phenomenon you see in most of the developing countries and I agree. However, the recent rapid economic growth in this country seems to have left many people behind.
I guess it is where impact investing can come in and reduce the gap and help less advantaged people. However, I have to admit that I will need to get myself accustomed with the environment where I am seeing rapid economic growth on one hand and helping people in poverty on the other.