DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/04 Feb) — The Philippines is no longer the “sick man of Asia” but “Asia’s rising tiger… President Aquino has proven that good governance is possible,” Budget Secretary Florencio Abad said at the opening Monday morning of the two-day Philippine Development Forum (PDF).
The theme of this year PDF is: “President Aquino’s Social Contract: Moving Forward in Achieving Inclusive Growth and Good Governance.”
Abad recalled that in his speech during the PDF in Manila nearly three years ago, he cited three challenges to the Aquino administration in fulfilling the social contract: “eliminating corruption, achieving fiscal sustainability thy, ensuring high and inclusive economic growth.”
“Our remarkable and impressive performance in 2012, stellar and resilient economic growth, a robust fiscal position and a renewed trust in our institutions – have put the Philippines back into the limelight.”
He said the seeds of reform that were planted have started to bear fruit.
“The path of inclusive growth is still requiring the resilience of the government along with the support of the development partners, business sectors and civil society organizations in sustaining the momentum of change and progress,” Abad said.
He added that this year’s PDF is envisioned as the avenue to discuss how to best engage all the development partners in development process and to flesh out more details on the strategy until 2016.
“Mindanao is an important agenda in this year’s PDF,” he said.
The signing of the landmark Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) on October15 last year is a step forward to peace and prosperity of Mindanao, he said.
“Hopefully, a progressive Mindanao can finally come full circle,” said Abad, who served as Agrarian Reform Secretary under the Corazon Aquino administration.
“There will be a special session on Mindanao to scope its situation and challenges, lay down the government’s plan to harness the potentials, and spur development to ensure the inclusiveness in the process,” he said.
The participants are also expected to map out the strategic engagement in continuing the Philippines’ Development Plan and the priorities of Aquino’s administration, especially in Mindanao.
Motoo Konishi, World Bank Country Director congratulated the Philippines on the impressive growth of 6.6% in 2012. He also noted that in the last two and a half years of the administration, the economic fundamentals consistently improved, as well as macroeconomic stability – the low inflation, large current account surpluses, the market based exchange rate – is now the new “normal” for the Philippines.
Government finances are strong and getting stronger, he said.
And most importantly, “the nation and the world have confidence in Aquino’s administration,” he added.
Konishi had high praises for the Philippine government as a demonstrator of strong leadership at the top with persistent focus on good governance bringinf quick result in higher growth.
The president’s campaign slogan, “Kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap” (If no one is a, no one will be poor) is, indeed, working, he said.
But Konishi highlighted the challenge of creating jobs in order to achieve inclusive growth.
As of now, 10 million Filipinos are either unemployed or underemployed. 1,1 million new Filipinos are entering the labor force every year, 14.6 million jobs need to be created between now and 2016.
The domestic job market in the formal, services, manufacturing, industries and jobs abroad are not enough to absorb the number of people coming out to the job market. Job creation is now more urgent in Mindanao because jobs also contribute to social cohesion.
“The need for jobs – jobs that raise real wages or bring people out of poverty-is an overwhelmimg challenge. There is no simple magic formula to address the situation,” he said.
On the side of the World Bank, Konishi said they are working with international finance cooperations and the private sector to bring in 6,000 new jobs in the Bangsamoro. (Bui Tran Nhu Phuong/MindaNews)