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PH borrows another $810M from WB

Fresh funds to bolster pandemic recovery efforts, improve disaster resilience, aid education sector
By: - Reporter / @bendeveraINQ
/ 04:12 AM October 18, 2021

Three forthcoming loans to be extended by the World Bank (WB) to the Philippines totaling $810 million will aid in pandemic recovery and building resilience against natural disasters as well as improving the education sector, the Washington-based lender said.

In separate reports last week, the World Bank said the $600 million promoting competitiveness and enhancing resilience to natural disasters sub-program 3 loan will be approved by its board on Dec. 15; the $110-million financing for the teacher effectiveness and competencies enhancement project on Dec. 16; and the $100-million loan for the strengthening alternative learning system for all project on Feb. 22 next year.

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Enhance resilience

The World Bank said the third tranche of financing to promote competitiveness and enhance resilience, which will be implemented by the Department of Finance (DOF), will “support economic recovery from the negative impact of COVID-19 while addressing several structural constraints to growth.”

“The Philippines is facing an incredible challenge in reversing the devastating effects of COVID-19 on the economy,” the World Bank said, citing that “there is considerable uncertainty, given the potential for prolonged COVID-19 infections and the recurrent episodes of lockdowns.”

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The World Bank loan aimed to mitigate these challenges to recovery, specifically by: lowering trade cost and ease of doing business; expanding fixed broadband infrastructure; assisting rice farmers to become more productive; opening the retail sector to foreign investment; enhancing fiscal, social, and financial resilience to shocks through simplifying tax incentives; strengthening risk management of payment systems; scaling the national ID registration system; and improving the financial risk management to natural disasters and climate change, it said.

But the World Bank said risks arose from “high degree of uncertainty on the duration and depth of the COVID-19 pandemic” plus next year’s presidential election.

“The macroeconomic risk is substantial given the risk of a prolonged COVID-19 outbreak that may result in a deeper recession, pushing more people into poverty, and diverting attention away from structural and long-term reforms, which may affect the achievement of the project development objectives. In addition, the political economy and governance risks can stall the reforms’ momentum, as political transition following the 2022 general election can affect the pace of structural reforms,” the World Bank said.

Equitable access

Meanwhile, the World Bank’s financing for the Department of Education’s (DepEd) $120-million teacher effectiveness and competencies enhancement project was aimed at “improving the quality of and equitable access to teaching in Kindergarten to Grade 6 in project-supported regions.”

“With school closures for several months and no [in-person] classes throughout the school year 2020-2021, students’ learning opportunities have been compromised with a wider disparity among students. The damage will likely become even more severe as the deep global recession following the COVID-19 pandemic leads to an economic crisis, which will cause hardships among many disadvantaged families, and lead to children dropping out of school,” the World Bank said.

Also, the World Bank pointed to “limited improvement in national and international student assessments results” such as DepEd-administered national achievement test as well as the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) in 2018 and the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) in 2019.

“These challenges in foundational skills start at early grades. By the end of Grade 3, the majority of students are fairly proficient in Filipino attaining both the fluency and untimed reading comprehension benchmarks set by DepEd, but a significant proportion of students do not demonstrate that they understand what they read in English. The weak proficiency in English considerably constrains students’ learning ability in all subjects in later grades,” the World Bank said.

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As such, the new loan to be extended to DepEd would specifically support improvement of teaching practices through an enhanced coaching program, as well as provide adequate and effective learning and teaching resources, especially in war-torn Mindanao.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has undermined the progress made in recent years in improving access to and quality of basic education, but the Philippines can use the opportunity to address the short-term challenges of COVID-19 and at the same time re-orient the system to focus on improving learning outcomes,” the World Bank said.

Also, as the Inquirer earlier reported, the World Bank loan for the DepEd’s $110-million strengthening alternative learning system for all project would “improve service delivery of the Alternative Learning System and learners’ outcomes in selected community learning centers.”

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