Gov’t urged to prioritize agriculture, tourism in creating jobs

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06:48 AM February 8th, 2013

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By: Judy Quiros, February 8th, 2013 06:48 AM

Korean tourists enjoy horse-riding in Baguio city’s Wright Park on Christmas Day last year. Local and foreign economic experts have recommended to President Aquino that his government make tourism and agriculture the priority sectors for infrastructure support and development to create more jobs. PHOTO BY RICK ALBERTO

DAVAO CITY, Philippines—To the President: Make agriculture and tourism the priority sectors for infrastructure support and development to create more jobs.

Local and foreign economic experts, stakeholders, the government’s partners for development and other support sectors made this recommendation to President Aquino as his administration vowed to transform the jobless 6.6 percent economic growth in 2012 into one that would be inclusive and felt by all in the form of more jobs and livelihood opportunities.

Earlier, the World Bank warned that the government would be dealing with a high unemployment rate by 2016, which would be detrimental to the economy, should it fail to put in place measures that would create more jobs this early.

The recommendation had been submitted to President Aquino at the end of the two-day Philippine Development Forum (PDF), hosted by the World Bank, here on Tuesday.

The policy recommendation—which outlined the five tasks of economic development; human development and poverty reduction; justice and peace; climate change adaptation and mitigation; and good governance and anti-corruption—was summarized to reporters by World Bank country director for the Philippines Motoo Konishi on Tuesday.

For the economic development aspect, they said that the government would be able to create 14.6 million jobs by 2016 if it adopted reforms that would boost the business environment, including that for agriculture and tourism.

The economic experts pushed for nationwide single-window business entry and licensing process.

There is also an urgent need to remove barriers to business entries, especially in the area of interisland shipping to help ease food prices, they recommended.

In strongly batting for more support to agriculture and tourism, the economic experts consider these sectors major job generators because of their forward and backward linkages.

They also recommended that government revisit critical laws such as the National Land Use Code, Competition Policy Law and the Cabotage Law.

To further boost agriculture and tourism, they suggested that the government increase its spending for infrastructure from the current 2.6 percent to five percent of the gross domestic product.

Konishi, the forum’s vice chairman, told reporters that increasing government spending to five percent could be done.

On the human development and poverty reduction aspect, the economic experts recommended that government expand its programs on health, education and social protection, including the conditional cash transfer program.

The focus, they said, should be on disadvantaged groups such as out-of-school youths, indigenous peoples, persons with disabilities and dropouts.

Public-private partnerships should also be strengthened to address skills mismatch. The curriculum should be realigned to meet labor market needs, they added.

Reforms in the justice system should also be undertaken, by introducing amendments to or replacing outdated laws, speeding up resolution of cases to clear backlogs that would decongest jails, and combating inefficiency and corruption in the judiciary.

On peace efforts, they lauded the government for significant developments to end the Moro rebellion but they said that it should work hard to preserve the gains of the peace process by making the Moro people feel they were indeed part of the system.

On climate change adaptation and mitigation, the economic experts said the current government’s disaster reform agenda has improved a lot and has become comparable to international standards.

In the good governance and anti-corruption cluster, they recommended that the government “build and empower constituencies for reform that will demand for and support good governance; strengthen monitoring and evaluation mechanisms particularly on public financial management and performance management systems; and give special attention to governance reform and institution building efforts in Mindanao.”

Konishi noted that they had recognized that the fight against corruption in the country “is being waged with determination (by the Aquino government) and it is paying off.”

“Transparency is improving everywhere in government,” he said.

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