Equal access to opportunities crucial to poverty reduction – NEDA
Rosalinda L. Orosa (The Philippine Star) - October 16, 2014 - 12:00am

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Success in reducing inequality and poverty in the Philippines and other East Asian countries hinges on providing the poor and the vulnerable with equal access to economic opportunities and basic services such as health and education, according to the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA).

 Economic Planning Secretary Arsenio M. Balisacan made this statement during the World Bank’s high-level panel on Shared Prosperity, Inequality, and Poverty in East Asia and Pacific last Oct. 10, at the World Bank headquarters in Washington, D.C.

 “Our country has made a deliberate effort to substantially increase spending for health and education, including the conditional cash transfer program. Our current fiscal space, which is a direct result of our institutional reforms, has allowed us to channel resources into human capital and support social protection programs,” said Balisacan, who is also NEDA director-general.

 Balisacan said that the Philippine government’s interventions to improve the quality of its regulatory structure presents a lot of opportunities for the local economy, especially in the upcoming ASEAN market integration in 2015.

 “We have been moving up in the ease of doing business and world competitiveness indicators quite significantly in the last couple of years and we have also substantially increased our investment in infrastructure. By increasing it from about two percent of GDP in 2012, to five percent by 2016, we are addressing one of the country’s biggest constraints to development and opening up for a bigger market,” said Balisacan.

 The Cabinet official also underscored the need to keep up with the rapidly changing labor market, which have become more skill-intensive across the various sectors. He cited the impact of technologies which has changed the mix of jobs and required better quality of education and skill content from the labor force.

 “A much easier and faster way of addressing inequality is mobility and enhanced capacity of people to choose any sector or location of employment. This is why education is such a powerful equalizer. It explains why Filipinos are everywhere. When they can’t find opportunities near them, they move elsewhere if they have human capital,” Balisacan concluded.

 The World Bank session discussed how countries in developing East Asia and the Pacific could address the challenges of promoting shared prosperity, reducing inequality and eliminating poverty and the lessons they can use from their past successes.

 The high-level panel discussion was opened by World Bank’s managing director and chief operating officer Sri Mulyani Indrawati and moderated by The Wall Street Journal’s Washington Bureau Economics editor Sudeep Reddy. Panelists who joined Balisacan were: Ravi Kanbur, Professor of Economics at Cornell University; Homi Kharas, a senior fellow and deputy director in the Global Economy and Development program; and Axel van Trotsenburg, vice president of the East Asia and Pacific Region of the World Bank.

BALISACAN CORNELL UNIVERSITY EAST ASIA AND PACIFIC EAST ASIA AND PACIFIC REGION OF THE WORLD BANK EAST ASIA AND THE PACIFIC EAST ASIAN ECONOMIC PLANNING SECRETARY ARSENIO M GLOBAL ECONOMY AND DEVELOPMENT WORLD BANK
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