CPA Australia survey: Philippines’ small businesses rank top in growth forecast in Asia Pacific

MANILA, PHILIPPINES –
Media OutReach Newswire – 5 June 2024 – Nearly 90 per cent of Filipino small businesses expect to see growth in 2024 as the country ranks first among 11 surveyed Asia-Pacific markets for the third consecutive year, according to new research conducted by CPA Australia.

CPA Australia’s
Asia-Pacific Small Business Survey collected views from 4,222 small businesses in 11 Asia-Pacific markets, including 303 from the Philippines. Despite a small trim in economic growth forecasts earlier this year, small business owners remain positive in the local economy, with eight out of 10 expecting the local economy to grow this year.

“Supported by optimism in the local economy and the strong growth momentum among small businesses, more than half (54 per cent) of Filipino small businesses are planning to add more labour in 2024, the second highest of the surveyed markets,” said Mr Darlow Parazo, a fellow certified practising accountant (FCPA) of CPA Australia in the Philippines.

“One of the key growth drivers includes increased adoption of technology and the introduction of AI in the business process outsourcing (BPO) industry,” Mr Parazao also said.

The survey revealed that 78 per cent of small business owners are aged under 50 years old, and that younger owners are more innovative and keener to embrace technology and the popularity of e-commerce platforms, especially in the retail sector. In fact, 62 per cent of respondent businesses said their investment in technology in 2023 improved their profitability, beating the survey average of 53 per cent.

The research revealed that Filipino small businesses’ strong momentum is highly associated with their focus on customer loyalty, strong customer satisfaction and business strategy. Respondents nominated customer loyalty as the top factor positively influencing their businesses for five conservative years and improved customer satisfaction ranks in the top four factors driving positive influence on businesses in each of the past six years.

An overwhelming majority (89 per cent) of Filipino small businesses used social media last year for various business purposes, such as promotion to potential customers (63 per cent), communication with existing customers (60 per cent), selling products or services (59 per cent), and receiving feedback from customers (42 per cent).

Last year, 68 per cent of small businesses required additional funding, and close to half of these used it for business growth. Nevertheless, only 19 per cent found it easy or very easy to access external funding, ranked the lowest among the surveyed markets. And they were also the least likely to seek funds from banks compared to their counterparts in the other surveyed markets.

The increasing cost and difficulties accessing external funds may hamper financial returns and development plans, with 46 per cent saying that increased costs negatively affected their businesses last year. The substandard accounting records of many small businesses is likely to be making it more difficult to access external funding. The rise of material costs (50 per cent) remained the cost most felt by local businesses, followed by utilities (42 per cent) and tax (31 per cent).

“Many Filipino micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) are suffering from soaring costs due to the persistence of high inflation caused by strong domestic demand hence the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) is cautiously considering rate cuts to support economic activity while managing inflation risks. In the next two years, we may see a gradual reduction in interest rates, which is likely to have implications for borrowers and investors in the Philippines SME sector,” said Parazo.

Parazo further added, “The survey shows that tax was a barrier to growth for some Filipino small businesses in 2023. We expect that the recently introduced Ease of Paying Taxes Act should see fewer micro and small business nominate tax as a barrier in future years. Under this Act, business taxpayers are classified as micro, small, medium or large taxpayers based on their gross sales. Micro and small taxpayers now have access to a range of special concessions including a simplified income tax return. MSMEs should consider seeking professional advice from accountants to understand how the changes may impact their business.”

The survey results showed many Filipino small businesses are undertaking activities closely associated with environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues. Many local small businesses are focused on staff health (41 per cent) and supply chain sustainability (38 per cent), a significant increase from 24 per cent last year.

Parazo suggested Filipino MSMEs continue to invest their resources and efforts on ESG, “Sustainable development is an irreversible global trend. Along with the multinational companies’ increasing focus on ESG regulations, MSMEs should seek to better understand their client’s ESG requirements, particularly in relation to supply chain management.”

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