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P2.3-T budget plan OK’d

Fund use intended for inclusive growth President Benigno Aquino III said Thursday that inclusive growth will continue to be the thrust of his administration as he approved in principle a P2.268 trillion budget for 2014. “I have been busy finalizing the national budget, where we are laying out the priorities for next year, and even beyond. Every line must be thoroughly scrutinized before the entire document is submitted to Congress,” Aquino said. Aquino and his Cabinet pored through the proposed budget on Wednesday during a marathon meeting that lasted until close to midnight. Even as he cited the 7.8 percent first quarter growth this year – the fastest growth rate in Southeast Asia for the period – the President said his goal is to ensure that no one is left behind. “Rest assured... that this success will only make our administration work harder. We know full well the challenges that remain. We must make certain that this growth becomes even more inclusive—that the economic benefits do not merely trickle down to our people, but that every Filipino is able to ride the rising tide of progress,” the President said. “If what we have achieved in the past three years tells us anything, it is that nothing is impossible to a united Filipino people,” Aquino added. On Wednesday the Palace cast doubt on statistics that showed the gap between the rich and the poor had widened under the Aquino administration. The National Statistical Coordinating Board said the rich enjoyed a 10.4 percent growth in their income in 2011 while income for the middle class and the poor grew only 4.3 percent and 8.2 percent respectively in the same period. “We find that those from the high-income class have incomes rising much faster than those in the middle- and low-income class,” said Secretary General Jose Ramon Albert. But a presidential spokesman questioned the NSDB data. “I’m not sure if that’s correct. There has been growth even in the lowest levels,” said presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda. In April, Mr. Aquino also disputed statistics showing that poverty had remained unchanged after three years of his administration. The proposed 2014 national budget is 13.1 percent higher than this year’s spending plan. Budget chief Florencio Abad said next year’s budget will have two dimensions – rapid and sustained growth and poverty reduction. “From the allocations we have made, I think we have put our money where our mouth is,’” he said. Presidential Communications Development chief Secretary Ramon Carandang said the thrust of the government remains inclusive growth. “We are enhancing social protections and creating opportunities for employment by focusing on job generating sectors like manufacturing, tourism, infrastructure, and agriculture, among others,” Carandang said. On Wednesday, Economic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan said the country should shift from a consumer-driven economy to an investment and employment-led model. Balisacan said during the 35th annual scientific meeting of the National Academy of Science and Technology that manufacturing had a crucial role to play in helping the country achieve rapid and inclusive growth. “We need to reverse its stagnation and decline. The Philippines had relatively high manufacturing-to-GDP ratio in the 1980s but since then, other Asian countries have outpaced the country,” he said. Balisacan said from about 39 percent of GDP in the 1980s, the manufacturing-to-GDP ratio fell to 33 percent in 2010-2012. This was a sharp contrast to Thailand, whose industry to GDP ratio peaked at 44 percent in 2010-2012 from 30 percent in the 1980s. “Employment levels in manufacturing have declined over the past two decades, which reflects the anemic state of Philippine industry,” he said. The Labor Force Survey in April found that about 53 percent of the employed workers were in services, 31 percent in agriculture and 16 percent in industry. Manufacturing accounted for only about 8 percent of the total employed. “There is strong evidence in the literature that links a thriving manufacturing sector with poverty reduction,” Balisacan said.
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