PHL needs to do more to achieve inclusive economic growth -Balisacan

By Leslie D. Venzon

MANILA, March 18 (PNA) — The Philippines aims to attract more investments to create opportunities, especially for the poor, to help make strong economic growth more inclusive.

“The Philippine economy has been one of the bright spots in the region… (However) economic growth is necessary but not sufficient for poverty reduction,” said Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan in an economic briefing on Tuesday.

Balisacan said the updated Philippine Development Plan (PDP) will deliberately address the constraints faced by the poor.

”In spite of the achievements in the aspects of economy and governance, we recognize that we still need to do more to achieve inclusive growth,” he said.

He noted that some cities or provinces have been experiencing economic growth, but the poorest families are being left behind.

Balisacan said the growing sectors may not require the goods and services that the poor can provide. Worse, migrants are being attracted into these cities or provinces, but they are unable to participate in the growth process.

He said the interventions should be aimed at increasing investments to create more growth opportunities in these provinces, particularly in information technology-business process management, tourism, construction, manufacturing, agri-business and logistics sectors.

“We then need to improve the skill sets of these poorest families and undertake more aggressive employment facilitation for better job-skills match, especially concerning the poor,” he added.

Balisacan, who is also the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Director General, said there are also some provinces that are being left out of the growth process altogether, which have very high proportion of the population who are poor.

He underscored the need to provide basic social services that promote economic and physical mobility, while economic opportunities are being created in these areas.

“Small agriculture-based enterprises linked to the supply chain in the nearby developed areas should be encouraged. In areas where human security is particularly at risk because of violence or armed conflict, peace-building efforts should be earnestly pursued,” he further said.

Moreover, Balisacan said there are 30 provinces in the country that are exposed and prone to multiple hazards, such as landslides and flooding.

“In these provinces, the marginally non-poor people can quickly slide into poverty due to shocks or natural disasters,” he said.

Balisacan cited the need to build resilience for these provinces, including disaster-risk reduction and mitigation, social insurance and social protection and income diversification.

He said the government targets to reduce unemployment rate in the country from 7 percent in 2012 to about 6.7 percent in 2016, and income poverty to 18 to 20 percent by 2016.

Apart from providing more opportunities for the poor, Balisacan said the government has earmarked public investments of about P4.2 trillion, more than half of which is for infrastructure development.

He said the remaining amount is set for social development, agriculture and fisheries and sustainable and climate resilient environment and natural resources.

“Majority will be started before and perhaps finished by 2016, but some may extend beyond the Aquino administration,” he added.

The economy is targeted to grow by 6.5 to 7.5 percent this year, 7 to 8 percent in 2015, and 7.5 to 8.5 percent in 2016.

The gross domestic product (GDP) grew by 7.2 percent last year despite the uncertain global environment and natural disasters that hit the country, making the Philippines the best performing economy in the region next to China. (PNA)