Neda updates strategies to generate jobs
MANILA, Philippines — Admitting that economic growth alone was not “sufficient” to reduce poverty, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan laid down, on Monday, the government’s “updated” strategies to ultimately achieve inclusive growth.
But Balisacan said the country would have to sustain its gross domestic product (GDP) growth targets “over a long period”—meaning in the next five to 20 years—to “allow us to really see a major reduction in poverty.”
“Economic growth is necessary but not sufficient for poverty reduction,” he said in a press conference in Malacañang, referring to “lessons” during the first three years of implementing the Philippine Development Plan (PDP).
The government’s target is to achieve a 6.5 to 7.5 percent GDP growth in 2014, 7 to 8 percent in 2015, and 7.5 to 8.5 percent at the end of President Aquino’s term in 2016.
At present, there are 10 provinces that “have been experiencing economic growth, but the poorest families are being left behind.” Balisacan said one reason could be that “the growing sectors do not require the goods or services that the poor can provide.”
“Worse, migrants are being attracted into these cities or provinces, but they too, are unable to participate in the growth process,” he said, citing Zamboanga del Sur, Cebu, Pangasinan, Negros Occidental, Camarines Sur, Leyte, Iloilo, Sulu, Quezon, and Davao del Sur.
“These provinces, which we have labeled as Category 1 provinces, have very high numbers of the poor, although the incidence of poverty is not very high,” he said.
The National Statistical Coordination Board defines poverty incidence as “the proportion of families/individuals with per capita income/expenditure less than the per capita poverty threshold to the total number of families/individuals.”
“We need to improve the skill sets of these poorest families, undertake more aggressive employment facilitation for better job-skills match especially concerning the poor,” Balisacan said.
“Growth and employment opportunities in these provinces need to increase even more.”
Ten “Category 2” provinces “are being left out of the growth process altogether,” the secretary said.
“Very sparsely populated and remotely located,” they are “confronted with weather disturbances and armed conflict that reinforce the state of under-development,” he added.
These are Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Eastern Samar, Apayao, Zamboanga del Norte, Camiguin, Saranggani, North Cotabato, Masbate, and Northern Samar.
“Increasing small businesses that are agriculture-based and are more connected to service providers in more developed areas of the region should be promoted,” Balisacan said. “This is a way of creating jobs and ensuring incomes.”
A total of 30 provinces under “Category 3” have been “exposed and prone to multiple hazards, such as landslides and flooding,” he said.
“In these provinces, the marginally non-poor people can quickly slide into poverty due to shocks or natural disasters,” he warned.
“The objective, therefore, is to make them resilient especially to the impact of natural disasters. These involve updating the geohazard maps, land use plans and even their local development plans. Residents also need to be trained on disaster response.”
Factored in the economic targets are calamities that might occur along the way. Balisacan said GDP growth projections in the next two years “would be greater if not for those disasters.”
“Disasters can negate the gains and even push back development,” he said.
“Our country is geographically located in such a way that we unfortunately have more of those typhoons and perhaps even droughts. But if we succeed in addressing these problems we outlined, we should be able to move on and still join our neighbors in terms of prosperity.”
“Overall, the ultimate goal of the updated Plan is inclusive growth.”
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