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Gov’t keeps poverty reduction target

By: Michelle V. Remo, June 16th, 2013 08:23 PM

The government is keeping its Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of reducing poverty incidence in the country to 16.6 percent by 2015.

This was according to Emmanuel Esguerra, deputy director general of the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda), who said that although the poverty-reduction target had become difficult to achieve, it was not yet time to give it up.

“That (16.6-percent poverty incidence by 2015) remains a fighting target,” Esguerra told the Inquirer last week.

Certain quarters said the Philippines would likely miss the MDG on poverty reduction, given reports showing that poverty incidence in the country was still high at 27.9 percent as of June 2012.

The figure showed a measly improvement over a six-year period, with poverty incidence at 28.6 percent in 2009 and 28.8 percent in 2006.

MDGs are 2015 targets set by countries that are members of the United Nations. The first of the eight MDGs states that countries should cut by half their poverty rates by 2015 from 1990s levels.

Esguerra said bringing down poverty incidence in the Philippines to 16.6 percent two years from now may be difficult but not yet impossible. Should the target later on prove to be impossible to achieve, he said, the government hoped to see poverty incidence that would be as close to the target as possible.

The Neda official cited encouraging developments in the economy lately and the government’s current efforts to update its development strategy.

Last year, the Philippine economy grew by 6.8 percent, posting one of the fastest growth rates in Asia. This was followed by a 7.8-percent growth in the first quarter of this year, the fastest in the region and exceeding even China’s 7.7 percent.

Economists said the Philippines needed to grow by at least 6 to 7 percent every year for a couple of years to see a significant reduction in the proportion of poor people to the total population.

Esguerra said government economic officials were in the process of updating the Philippine Development Plan (PDP) for 2010 to 2016.

Without giving specific details, he said the government intends to focus its development strategy over the next few years on provinces that were poor but with high growth potentials.

Examples of such provinces are those seen to appeal to foreign and local tourists, and those that have high potential for agriculture production but have yet to be linked to commercial areas where their produce can be sold.

He said tourism infrastructure and more farm-to-market roads were likely to be included in the updated PDP.

Because of its robust economic growth rate, the Philippines has been described as a bright spot amid a weak global economy.

Nonetheless, the Philippines is suffering from what economists call as non-inclusive growth, with the benefits of its expanding economy felt mostly by the rich and the middle class. Poverty rate in the Philippines remains one of the highest among those of emerging Asian economies.

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