The government’ “ambitious” target of reducing the poverty level from more than 20 percent to single digit at the end of the administration of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. is doable, new Economic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan said Monday.
Balisacan took the helm of the National Economic and Development Authority from Secretary Karl Kendrick Chua in a turnover ceremony in Pasig City.
Balisacan said President Marcos and the economic team agreed on the overall goal of the administration focusing on job generation and poverty alleviation.
“We all agree to quickly revive job creation and poverty reduction by steering the economy back to the high-growth path while addressing government debt and the sharply rising prices of food and essential commodities,” Balisacan said.
“In particular, we aim for economic growth at least at par with pre-pandemic levels through 2028. And we are raising the bar higher: we must make this growth more inclusive and resilient. In other words, growth must be pro-poor and can weather adverse global events such as pandemics, calamities due to climate change, and geopolitical and technological disruptions,” he said.
“With quality growth and jobs, we aim to rapidly reduce poverty to a single-digit level at the end of the administration. I recognize such a target is ambitious, but I firmly believe it is achievable,” he said.
Balisacan said the reforms the past administrations laid down made the economy’s foundations stronger.
He said a robust economy could be attained by recovering lost ground and tapping into the country’s latent human and natural capital.
Poverty incidence among Filipinos increased by 2.6 percentage points to 23.7 percent in the first half of 2021 from 21.1 percent in the first semester of 2018 based on data from the Philippine Statistics Authority.
Balisacan said to achieve these targets, NEDA would push for necessary measures to raise the country’s economic performance.
He said the economic reforms in the past two decades, including under the Duterte administration, encouraged stakeholders to expect greater things from the Philippine economy.
“As such, despite all the headwinds and economic pains confronting us in the near term, we can aim to do even better and surpass the country’s previous performance, bringing it closer to its long-term development anchor: the AmBisyon Natin 2040,” he said.
Balisacan said NEDA would enhance its proactive engagement with stakeholders—including the President and policymakers in Congress and the executive branch—on policy advising, planning and monitoring.
“We shall strive to be in the front rather than behind the curve of critical policy issues involving national and local development, including policy and program coordination,” he said.
He said that in light of the Mandanas-Garcia ruling, the president recognized the need to strengthen NEDA’s presence and role in local government units.
He said such proactive engagement requires closely coordinating national and local policies so that plans and programs, especially public investments, appropriately reflect local development priorities.
“We shall also work closely with Congress for the speedy enactment of priority bills and structural reforms that can address binding constraints to market access for essential goods and services. We will ramp up the implementation of the National ID System… and coordinate with agencies to digitalize government transactions so that we can rapidly and efficiently provide targeted support to the poor and vulnerable groups,” he said.
Balisacan also said NEDA would uphold a culture of openness, transparency and professionalism concerning the direction of national economic policies, plans, and programs.
“We recognize the importance of keeping the business community informed to make optimal investment decisions. It is a fact that uncertainty raises the cost of doing business. Hence, we aim to keep stakeholders well informed of proposed changes to the rules that govern them. Such engagement would entail constant coordination and consultation with the affected parties to ensure that the proposed changes genuinely address their concerns,” he said.
He also pushed for the swift completion and implementation of the implementing rules and regulations of the newly-enacted CREATE Law and key economic liberalization reforms such as the amendments to the Public Service Act, Retail Trade Liberalization Act and Foreign Investments Act.
“Further, we will ensure that comments on the revised IRR of the amended BOT Law for PPPs are heard and carefully considered. We see much potential in the private sector’s role in upgrading the country’s infrastructure, raising productivity in agriculture and manufacturing, integrating businesses and workforce into global value chains, and preparing systems and institutions for climate change and automation disruptions,” Balisacan said.