I've written in this blog before about my great admiration for Barack Obama, whose sweeping message of change has catapulted him to the presidency of the United States. I was fortunate enough to witness his historic election during my recent trip to the United States, which coincided with the Nov. 4 polls.
It is without doubt that Obama's victory has brought renewed goodwill and faith on America, after a disastrous eight-year reign of a stubborn president. Despite the raging war in Iraq and the financial crunch, there is a palpable feeling of optimism with the first African-American resident of the White House.
But, there's a disturbing issue that the man of the hour is anti-outsourcing. Well, to be technical about it, it's actually the stand of the Democratic party. The Indian media has written extensively about this policy in the days leading to the elections, but the issue has reached a higher level with Obama's win.
Like India, the Philippines has a significant stake because the country has built a whole new industry based on the outsourcing model. BPO firms--from software developers to call centers to medical transcriptionists to animators--have sprouted across the country, most of them catering to the U.S. market.
Despite the large presence of BPO firms here, I must say that the reaction of the local industry is rather mute, compared to India. I've spoken to a few industry players, as well as government executives, and they're of the opinion that the Obama factor is not a threat to the outsourcing market.
Large U.S. companies, they said, will always go to where cost-savings and efficiency can be maximised. Even before the terms "BPO" and "outsourcing" became popular due to the explosion of the Internet, companies such as Intel has been doing outsourcing as early as the 1960s by putting up manufacturing plants in various countries.
There's no way that Obama can fight this global trend, they noted, especially now that the Internet has entrenched it even further. The tax breaks that Obama has promised to give to companies that will not outsource jobs, will still be outweighed by the savings a company can generate if it decides to outsource, they said.
Besides, American are not interested in getting back those so-called "menial" jobs provided by BPO firms like call centers, they added.
As someone with a global background–-a citizen of the world, if I may say-–I was expecting Obama to be more circumspect in addressing this issue. Now that he's gotten the votes, I hope that it was just campaign rhetoric and a way to toe the Democratic line.