By Wilfredo G. Reyes, Editor-in-Chief

“We should grow up. First of all, it’s time to realize and accept the fact that heightened uncertainty and instability are here to stay.”

This, the global boss of a consultancy giant said over lunch earlier this year, has been the gist of his message to clients as economies reopen, especially to those who dream of restoring pre-pandemic systems and practices lock, stock, and barrel.

The once-in-a-century pandemic has spawned a host of challenges in the past three years, including mounting debt as countries and companies struggle to weather its impact, prolonged tight credit conditions and deep socioeconomic scars.

Add to this changing consumption patterns and other structural shifts, not to mention problems such as supply chain disruptions and repercussions of the raging Ukraine-Russia war, China’s slowing growth, a potential US and euro zone recession and economic and business risks from climate change.

The picture varies across economies, with the Philippines now expected to outpace most in Asia and the Pacific region this year and next in terms of gross domestic product growth. At the same time, the country is expected to reel from the fastest inflation in the region amid income inequality that is the worst among its peers (and which apparently crimped consumption and weighed considerably on second-quarter growth).

The central bank’s surveys have shown that businesses have understandably remained cautious — despite improvement in overall confidence since much of last year — about prospects in succeeding quarters and the next 12 months. Consumers remained pessimistic in the second quarter and confident — though less than they were in previous surveys — for the next quarter and the succeeding 12 months since the middle of 2022.

BusinessWorld’s economic fora since the pandemic struck at the start of 2020 have been providing insights on trends to watch, among them artificial intelligence (AI), automation and information technology and how they provide opportunities in areas like content generation, improving customer experience, financial inclusion and raising productivity even as companies and workers struggle with upskilling and even reskilling.

Meanwhile, social media has become a primary field of business competition, while increasingly perceptible climate change has made consumers more discerning in their choices, in turn making businesses more mindful of environmental, social and governance (ESG) imperatives, even as the impact of sustainable practices on bottom lines has not yet been that apparent. Of course, there is no turning back from hybrid and other alternative work arrangements despite productivity concerns among many employers.

This anniversary report themed “Risks and rebounds: Reframing business realities” aims to provide an updated glimpse of how sectors have been factoring in the fast-changing environment into their plans. How has recovery unfolded in specific industries so far? What have companies learned and what have they changed to become more competitive? What technologies have they adopted to spur their rebound? What emerging risks and opportunities have they seen? We hope the reader will find answers to these and other important questions in the following pages.

Take note that this report just forms part of a bigger effort to track economic recovery, which has also been the main focus of our annual BusinessWorld Top 1000 Corporations in the Philippines, biannual fora, monthly “Insights” webinars, quarterly banking reports, etc. We encourage the reader to check out these other contents that are rolled out throughout the year to get the bigger picture.