Projects under Duterte to prioritize rural areas

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/20 June) – Projects under the Duterte administration will focus on areas outside Metro Manila to boost employment, incoming Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez said Monday.

“We are going to prioritize projects outside of Metro Manila. We are going to execute projects in the countryside and thereby create jobs there,” he said in a press conference on the first day of “Sulong Pilipinas: Hakbang Tungo sa Kaunlaran” at the SMX Convention Center Davao.

“We have about 42 million people who are in the workforce and the statistics show about 5.7 percent of them are unemployed and around 18 percent are underemployed. Most of them live in the rural areas,” he said.

In his presentation on the Duterte administration’s 10-point socioeconomic agenda, Dominguez said high economic growth in the Philippines “did not sufficiently disperse economic opportunity nor reduce poverty. It kept income levels tight for the small middle class and pushed the rural poor to even greater misery.”

“This pattern of high growth fueled by widening income disparity is unsustainable. It has produced great disillusionment among the people. It has made our national economy seem harsh to those who work hard and earn so little,” he said.

He encouraged the business sector to invest in the countryside rather than concentrate on the already congested Metro Manila.

“If we keep on spending money on that area, we are going to congest Manila and not solving employment and underemployment in rural and and secondary cities,” he said.

He said the Finance department will increase the budget necessary for social goods such as infrastructure, health facilities and quality educational institutions while avoiding the factors that widen the inequity.

He added it will manage the national debt to prevent it from becoming a hindrance to the economic growth as it looks for financing to ensure opportunities for the people.

To make the growth even more inclusive, Dominguez said they need to rethink investment incentives, reconfigure taxation systems to build a robust middle class and reinvent trade and tariff policies “so that we may take advantage of free trade without sacrificing the development of our industries.”

“The third role requires some out-of-the-box thinking and a creative synergy among all the economic managers. Given the nature of the global economy today, the nation-state needs to play new roles to ensure their economies create jobs, disperse wealth and widen opportunities,” he noted.

To transform the national economy that brings not only social peace but communities that nurture people, he said that they need to accomplish the goals as stated in the 10-point socioeconomic agenda.

The 10-point socioeconomic agenda includes the following measures:

1.     Continue and maintain current macroeconomic policies, including fiscal, monetary, and trade policies.
2.     Institute progressive tax reform and more effective tax collection, indexing taxes to inflation. A tax reform package will be submitted to Congress by September 2016.
3.     Increase competitiveness and the ease of doing business. This effort will draw upon successful models used to attract business to local cities, and pursue the relaxation of the Constitutional restrictions on foreign ownership, except as regards land ownership, in order to attract foreign direct investment.
4.     Accelerate annual infrastructure spending to account for 5% of GDP, with Public-Private Partnerships playing a key role.
5.     Promote rural and value chain development toward increasing agricultural and rural enterprise productivity and rural tourism.
6.     Ensure security of land tenure to encourage investments, and address bottlenecks in land management and titling agencies.
7.     Invest in human capital development, including health and education systems, and match skills and training to meet the demand of businesses and the private sector.
8.     Promote science, technology, and the creative arts to enhance innovation and creative capacity towards self-sustaining, inclusive development.
9.     Improve social protection programs, including the government’s Conditional Cash Transfer program, to protect the poor against instability and economic shocks.
10.  Strengthen implementation of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Law to enable especially poor couples to make informed choices on financial and family planning. (Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)