Economist: Mindanao is left behind again-A A +A
Monday, February 4, 2013
DAVAO CITY -- A government economist admitted on Monday that Mindanao appeared to have been left behind in terms of reaping the benefits of the rapid economic growth of 6.6 percent registered by the country in 2012.
"But have we attained inclusive growth? We recognize that more needs are to be done, as shown by the latest data on labor and employment," Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio M. Balisacan said in a statement issued at the opening of the two-day Philippine Development Forum at Marco Polo Hotel in this city Monday.
Budget Secretary Florencio Abad earlier said that although the economy may have grown "by leaps and bounds" last year, the country's employment "did not grow in similar degree."
Balisacan said that at present, 60 percent of the country's gross domestic product (GDP) is concentrated in three regions in Luzon, and this only shows that both the government and private sector have "yet to tap the full potential of other regions, especially those in Mindanao."
He said there is a need to make the benefits of economic growth trickle down to "everyone, regardless of location or social status."
"Hence, our policy priorities must ensure that our people in the rest of Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao benefit from growth. We need to connect these regions to facilitate access to markets and basic services," he said, adding that the rest of Luzon has the advantage of proximity to the fastest growing regions in the country.
In his presentation at the Mindanao Development Forum on Friday, Balisacan said the National Capital Region and its adjoining regions of Calabarzon and Central Luzon have contributed almost 60 percent to GDP.
"Mindanao and the Visayas contribute 14 percent and 12.7 percent, respectively, and this contribution can be expected to expand further as we set our sights to maximizing the potential of these areas," he said.
It is this breadth that the government has been pushing for the promotion of Mindanao's potentials, particularly in tourism, agribusiness and the halal industry.
"We are very optimistic about Mindanao's contribution to national development. The government is mindful of the opportunities and challenges, as we move forward with the Bangsamoro Framework Agreement," he said.
"(Year) 2013 is a crucial year for the Philippines. Given the fiscal space and business confidence, we have the opportunity to accelerate the implementation of development programs to lift the living standard of our people. We need to sustain the growth momentum and achieve inclusive growth. These two objectives need not contradict each other. In fact, inclusive growth is not just a goal but a growth strategy," he added.
Balisacan also said that among Mindanao's strong potentials lie in agri-industry, being a leading exporter of rubber, pineapple, banana, coffee and organic agriculture products, which command high demand in the global market.
He said the National Government has initiated market facilitation activities, including market matching, to assist agriculture growers in entering in agreements with buyers and in opening more markets for their products such as United States, Japan, China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea, Middle East and the Gulf Region, and parts of the European Union.
"We recognize the need to improve our productivity which will require investments in power and connectivity, particularly rural roads, irrigation, and research and development, including those that will make agriculture more adaptive to risks posed by climate change disturbances," he said.
He also looked at tourism as another major growth driver in Mindanao.
"(The island's) current share of 17 percent in the number of tourist arrivals in the country for 2011 can be further increased by developing efforts on tourism circuits that will highlight what the Mindanao has to offer, and by promoting coordinated and harmonized infrastructure facilities to ensure better mobility of people, goods and services," he said.
The signing of the Bangsamoro Framework Agreement in October last year has provided vital opportunities to accelerate development in Mindanao, Balisacan added.
"We need to approach this framework agreement not only as a political exercise but also as an economic imperative. With the improvements in the peace and order situation and the stability that it promises, we must take advantage of the situation to get these economic activities going on (in Mindanao)," he said.
Despite a weak global economy in 2012, the Philippines registered rapid economic growth of 6.6 percent for the full year, higher than that of Indonesia (6.3 percent), Vietnam (5.0 percent) and Singapore (1.2 percent).
But even before the 2012 GDP numbers were known, Balisacan said the country had been commended for its sound macroeconomic fundamentals, with low and stable inflation, favorable interest rates, sustainable fiscal and external position, and a strong financial sector.
"International institutions have also noticed how our country has continued to improve its competitiveness. Under this administration, the Philippines climbed 20 notches in just two years, ranking 65th among 144 countries. We are mindful, though, that our target is to land in the top 30 percent of the global rankings," he said.
"The reforms and measures that we will undertake and prioritize this year are crucial. The sooner we can address the challenges ahead of us, the sooner we can achieve inclusive growth and development," he added. (Sun.Star Davao/Sunnex)
Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on February 05, 2013.