FOR the government agency tasked to oversee economic development, growth is about more than big-ticket investments and economic figures.
The youth, who compose a big portion of the population, is called on to play an active role in achieving “inclusive growth” in the Visayas, said Director Efren Carreon of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA).
Carreon presented the economic situation of the Visayas when he spoke with budding entrepreneurs, mostly business majors from various universities, during the recent Cebu Youth to Business Forum organized by youth-led international organization AISEC Cebu.
The Visayas, which has 16 provinces spread across three regions, is growing fast. Its gross regional domestic product grew by six percent in 2013 from 5.6 percent in 2012, fuelled primarily by activities in Central Visayas.
But Carreon said that the growth appears to have not trickled to the lower-income population. Poverty incidence in the Visayas, although decreasing, is higher than the national average, with 25.7 percent of the population or 400,000 people in the Visayas being poor, according to Neda’s 2012 data.
“Can inclusive economic growth be achieved?” Carreon asked. “Yes, but it needs strong intervention. Growth will not trickle down on its own. It requires deliberate intervention.”
The Visayas needs to address problems like inadequate access to basic education, high malnutrition rates, informal settlements, and rural-urban inequalities.
Problems with the road network and transportation and the region’s vulnerability to natural disasters and calamities are also major issues.
While the problems are directly placed on the shoulders of the government, Carreon believes the youth can become a potent force in achieving inclusive growth, despite limited financial resources.
“Participate in rehabilitation efforts, develop skills that will be used by the industries, and develop a capacity for entrepreneurship,” Carreon advised young Visayans.
During the same forum, multi-awarded Cebuano furniture designer Kenneth Cobonpue encouraged the youth to “find inspiration in little things,” a personal practice that has sparked his ideas and designs.
Cobonpue uses locally sourced natural materials such as sea grasses, rattan, buri, bamboo and abaca in his furniture designs and innovates to suit global
Another speaker, strategic communications practitioner Amor Maclang, challenged participants to “give a voice to those who cannot speak.”
According to the United Nations, the Philippines will be the youngest economy in Southeast Asia, in its population projection conducted in 2013. Filipinos 15-24 will peak at roughly 25.09 million by the year 2055, it said. The country’s dependency ratio, or the part of its population that is 0-14 and 65 and above, expressed as a share of the population, will continue to decline until it hits a trough around 2050.
If this will be the case, experts see a stronger economy with more workers, consumers and taxpayers to fuel growth.