Philippines calls for public-private sector partnerships on vaccine, other medical needs to end COVID-19 pandemic

Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III has underscored the need for public-private partnerships in the development and mass production of vaccines and other medical requirements to help end the prolonged COVID-19 pandemic.

This kind of partnership will ensure that such initiatives are efficiently implemented by bringing in the expertise and best practices of the private sector into the picture, while government takes on the role of regulator and guide to “moderate” corporate greed, Secretary Dominguez said.

“The private sector brings in efficiency, and frankly in my experience as a government minister, efficiency is not number one in [the government’s] DNA. So, I think it should be a partnership, where the goals and the profits–the return on investment–are very, very clearly defined,” said Secretary Dominguez, the governor for the Philippines in the ADB Board.

He said this in response to a query during the Asian Development Bank (ADB)’s Governors Seminar on Monday on how to ensure that support by governments on COVID-19 response would prioritize people in lieu of profit-driven corporate initiatives.

The governor for India and the alternate governor for China in the ADB Board supported Secretary Dominguez’s statements.

Citing India as an example, Secretary Dominguez said that while that country’s large vaccine manufacturers are privately owned, they closely cooperate with government regulators, not only to guarantee the public that their products are safe and effective, but also to ensure that they “have a social conscience.”

Secretary Dominguez said his earlier statement on the need for ADB and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to jointly build the region’s capacity to produce vaccines should involve the private sector.

Minister Nirmala Sitharaman of India’s Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Corporate Affairs, agreed with Secretary Dominguez, pointing out that in the case of India, the private sector has been an effective partner of the government not only on vaccine production, but also in beefing up the country’s healthcare capacity against COVID-19, while foregoing large profit margins.

She said that “rightly, the Governor from the Philippines highlighted the fact that Indian vaccine developers, particularly those in the private sector … have definitely worked together with the government and checked their profit concentrations aside, and given (the vaccines) at an affordable price for government to distribute freely for all citizens.”

Vice Minister Jiayi Zou of China’s Ministry of Finance also said Secretary Dominguez has correctly stated the importance of public-private partnerships in undertaking measures to defeat the pandemic.

These partnerships should take into consideration that private companies cannot absorb economic losses as they are “the main forces of the market economy,” but they should be guided into fulfilling their social responsibilities, which is the government’s job, Vice Minister Zou said.

“China is pursuing a people-centered modality of development. So, I think I would agree with the Filipino Minister that the partnership between the government and private sector is very, very important,” said Vice Minister Zou.

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