Gov’t ratchets up poverty reduction thrust
The Aquino administration will fully support and develop five sectors that it considers critical in further reducing poverty in the country, said Arsenio Balisacan, director general of the National Economic and Development Authority.
The sectors are tourism, information technology-business process outsourcing (IT-BPO), housing, agriculture and manufacturing.
The projects and programs involving the five sectors will be the highlight of the updated Philippine Development Plan (PDP) to be released in the second half of the year, Balisacan said.
The government’s economic team identified the sectors based on their potential to generate jobs.
“There is now a great sense of urgency to reduce poverty and inequality. We cannot afford to simply wait for the benefits of growth to trickle down,” Balisacan said during a speech yesterday before members of the Philippine Council for Industry, Energy, and Emerging Technology Research and Development.
Although the Philippines has outperformed many countries in terms of economic growth, it is still saddled with serious poverty issues, Balisacan said.
“We are creating new drivers of growth that will generate high-quality jobs and strengthen regional competitive advantage,” the country’s chief economist said.
Over the past decade, the services sector, led by IT-BPO, has been the key growth driver of the Philippine economy. But some economists said that the country would need to stand on more legs if it hoped to significantly reduce poverty incidence.
According to Baliscan, investing in agriculture may help trim poverty because a substantial number of poor people reside in agricultural areas.
Revitalizing the manufacturing sector will also help, given its huge multiplier effect on the economy and its high labor requirements.
Tourism is a low-hanging fruit, Balisacan said, as he cited the country’s rich natural resources and attractive vacation destinations.
Balisacan also considered it crucial to invest in housing, saying that it would address the need for shelter of millions of Filipinos.
Economists said sufficient housing services would mostly benefit the poor, and not just the rich and the middle class.
“What we need is inclusive growth—a growth process that deliberately enables more to participate, and where the benefits of growth are shared by all,” Baliscan said.
The Philippines grew by 6.8 percent last year, and 7.8 percent in the first quarter of this year. It outperformed many countries affected by a weak global economy.
Nonetheless, economists said, the benefits of the Philippines’ robust economy have yet to trickle down to the masses.
Poverty incidence stood at 27.9 percent in the first semester of 2012, one of the highest in Asia.