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Neda: Provinces growing, but people remain poor

Economic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan: There is need to improve the skill sets of the poorest families. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines—At least 10 provinces have been experiencing economic growth, but the poorest families in them are being left behind, the country’s top economic manager said on Monday.

Citing Zamboanga del Sur, Cebu, Pangasinan, Negros Occidental, Camarines Sur, Leyte, Iloilo, Sulu, Quezon and Davao del Sur, Economic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan said the poorest families in these provinces were being left behind because “the growing sectors do not require the goods or services that the poor can provide.”

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“Worse, migrants are being attracted to these cities or provinces but they, too, are unable to participate in the growth process,” he said.

“These provinces, which we have labeled as Category 1 provinces, have very high numbers of poor, although the incidence of poverty is not very high,” Balisacan said.

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The National Statistical Coordination Board defines poverty incidence as “the proportion of families/individuals with per capita income/expenditures less than the per capita poverty threshold of the total number of families/individuals.”

“We 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,” Balisacan said.

“Growth and employment opportunities in these provinces need to be increased even more,” he added.

Balicasan, however, admitted that economic growth alone was not “sufficient” to reduce poverty as he laid down the government’s “updated” strategies to ultimately achieve inclusive growth.

Balisacan said the country would have to sustain its gross domestic product (GDP) growth targets “over a long period”—meaning 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 Malacanang, referring to the “lessons” of the first three years of implementing the Philippine Development Plan (PDP).

Last year, the country’s GDP grew by 7.2 percent, the second-highest in Asia after China.

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This year, the government is targeting a 6.5 to 7.5 percent GDP growth,  7 to 8 percent next year, and 7.5 to 8.5 percent by the end of President Aquino’s term in 2016.

Factored into these economic targets are calamities that may 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 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.

Balicasan also pointed out that 10 “Category 2” provinces “are being left out of the growth process altogether.”

These are Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Eastern Samar, Apayao, Zamboanga del Norte, Camiguin, Saranggani, North Cotabato, Masbate and Northern Samar.

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TAGS: economy, Philippines - Regions, Poverty, provinces
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