BACOLOD

Neda-Western Visayas unveils measures to boost economic growth

THE National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) in Western Visayas is banking on various measures positioned to overcome the sluggishness in the region's economic growth.

The regional line agency earlier reported that, overall, the region had slower growth in all sectors last year.

In agriculture, for instance, it reported a decrease of 1.4 percent. Another decrease was noted in service sector, from 8.5 percent to 7.5 percent.

The industry sector, meanwhile, is almost the same, from 8.7 in 2017 to 8.6 percent in 2018.

Ro-Ann Bacal, regional director of Neda-Western Visayas, said one measure to bolster economic growth is to fast-track the implementation of infrastructure projects.

Bacal said there is a need to improve the utilization of fiscal resources to pursue the region's priority programs and projects and woo investors to establish their ventures here.

"Local leaders should continually have a more competitive outlook in governance," she said, stressing the need to relentlessly deliver the necessary social services to populations in need.

During the recent press briefing on the 2018 Regional Economic Performance of Western Visayas in Iloilo City, the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) reported that the region has a gross regional domestic product (GRDP) growth rate of 6.1 percent during the calendar year 2017 to 2018.

It is lower than 8.6 percent growth in 2016 to 2017, the PSA report further showed.

Despite unfavorable conditions last year, the region was the third highest producer of palay in the country next to Cagayan Valley and Central Luzon.

Neda presented that sugarcane output, mostly in Negros Occidental, decreased by 26.2 percent.

This was attributed to the reduction of sugarcane planting areas in Western Visayas in response to low prices.

Other factors are smaller cane because of reduced fertilizer use in Central Visayas and early cut-off of milling operations in Northern Mindanao.

The livestock, poultry and fishery products also experienced decreases in overall production.

Due to less supply, demand for these products increased resulting to a high food inflation rate from 2.1 percent in 2017 to 8.4 percent in 2018.

The upbeat performance in public construction, from 4.3 percent to 14.3

percent), on other hand, resulted in demand for skilled and unskilled labor.

Bacal said regular infrastructure projects of the government as well as in the private sector are expected to drive construction-related activities in the region.

These are seen to increase quarrying, importation of construction materials, opportunities for small-time ventures near the workplace, and an enhance delivery of public services once completed.

Despite the slower growth of the economy, Bacal reported that poverty incidence among families declined from 25 percent to 15.9 percent.

Domestic demand is expected to improve in view of the increase in salaries of government employees and in the daily minimum wages.

From P256.50 to P298.50 effective May 2015 to P295.00 to P365 effective July 12, 2018 per Wage Order Numbers 22 and 24, respectively.

"The implementation of poverty reduction programs has also augmented the income of the population," she added.

Moreover, the business process outsourcing (BPO) industry employed 21,500 workers in Iloilo City and 30,000 in Bacolod City in 2018.

Bacal, however, stressed the need to attract more investors in the region in order to generate more employment opportunities and ultimately decrease the 18.6 percent unemployment rate.


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