DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 18 Sept) — The World Bank has signified interest to step up its collaboration with the Philippine government specifically on agriculture, peace process, and affordable housing to address poverty and generate “meaningful” jobs to poorer Filipinos under the Duterte administration.
Victoria Kwakwa, World Bank-East Asia and Pacific Region vice president told reporters Friday that she met with key senior government officials and business leaders on “what more we could to together.”
“The objective of my visit was really to help me understand better some of the key development challenges in the Philippines, understand the program that we are working on, and discuss with key government counterpart, how they see the World Bank support to the Philippines and what more we could do together,” she said.
Among the cabinet members whom the WB executive met with were Vice President Leni Robredo, who heads the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC), Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez, Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno, Socioeconomic Secretary Ernesto Pernia, and Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza.
She said no specific plans or support have been firmed up yet as to the approach, as the WB representatives are still discussing with government officials on how the WB can work with them as guided by the policy directions of the Duterte administration.
But Kwakwa said the peace process and how to make poorer Filipino families enjoy the country’s economic growth were among the main highlights during her meetings.
“The common theme that has come out in my conversation with the government, based on what I have heard very loud, is the importance of government’s peace and development agenda in Mindanao and seeing this as an integral part of its efforts to really reduce poverty and to make sure that poorer citizens of the Philippines also enjoy the growth that the country is experiencing,” she said.
She commended the willingness of the government to “put in the effort and resources” in terms of shoring up public infrastructure investments for social protection and economic infrastructure.
She said the new administration’s 10-point socioeconomic agenda, as presented to her by Dominguez, is very well in line with the World Bank’s objective that is to eliminate extreme and poverty and promote shared prosperity.
Kwakwa said “we support very much” the key elements of the 10-point agenda, the focus on “enhancing the public infrastructure investments in trying to close that huge infrastructure deficit as a way of continuing to stimulate growth and doing it in a way that benefits the poorer citizens in the society.”
Kwakwa said that they are willing strengthen the World Bank’s support in agriculture as she acknowledged the important role of agriculture especially in Mindanao.
“We are willing to step up our engagements in areas such as agriculture (as) majority of the poorer Filipinos make a living from agriculture,” she said.
She added that developing the agriculture sector and strengthening it to become the base for industrialization through “agro-industry can really be a driver of growth – a growth that creates meaningful jobs for Filipino.”
“The way we look at it is that that government is quite well-resourced. The Philippines is very fortunate to have a healthy fiscal position. I think it’s not too much about huge amounts of money but it’s more about bringing our money to help government use its considerable resources better in support of agriculture in Mindanao,” she said.
She said that WB will discuss with the government ways on how the problems besetting the agriculture sector can be solved through effective mechanisms and systems that “allow government to use its own resources even better.”
“That really should be the focus, I don’t think financing is really the main constraints in the Philippines at this point in time,” she added.
On housing, Kwakwa said it is necessary to widen access of poorer families to affordable housing that she said is part of addressing poverty in Metro Manila and in other urbanized areas. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)