“It is our duty as planners to ensure that the growth is inclusive as possible,” Economic  Planning Secretary and NEDA Director-General Arsenio M. Balisacan said  during his meeting with the NEDA Regional Office (NRO) XII officials and staff on October 7  in Koronadal City.

Secretary Balisacan emphasized this point because he noted that while he was surprised at the dynamism of Gen.  Santos City and its nearby areas, the overall poverty incidence in  Region XII has also increased over the years.

“I was quite amused as my expectation of the Region is not what I have seen the last time I was here. It appears that the cities, particularly Gen. Santos City, and the provinces are much more dynamic; I see more establishments and dynamism in the city,” Secretary Balisacan said.  However, he noted that given the rise in poverty, the region’s growth and development did not immediately trickle down to the poor.

The Secretary, underscored that “the kind of policies, programs and investments that we want to put in place are the ones that are sustainable for our people, hindi lang yung pampabango na will not last long. People should get access to education, health and other services.”  He further explained that the lasting solution to poverty is employment and creation of jobs in the highly productive sectors and the coming in of foreign investments.  All these, he said, require “very good planning and policies.”

He  believes in the need to continually strengthen the NEDA.  “A good mark of an organization is its ability to attract the young, especially the high quality young people as they bring in new perspectives to the organization, as well as new dynamism.” He underlined that the agency as a whole should focus on pumping in new blood to the system.

“The point is that whether it is in the central office or the regional offices, NEDA must be able to attract the best if it aims to be successful in delivering its mandate,  as I find the work in NEDA  a very challenging job.”

The Secretary also added that, “We are expected to advise the President and the Cabinet on socioeconomic and investment policies and on matters that would affect the nation. Our recommendations would be affecting millions of people and it would be detrimental if ideas are not supported by good analysis, diagnosis of problems, partly because we don’t have the best and the brightest who can deliver the appropriate technical expertise.”

In closing, Secretary Balisacan said that if the country can sustain the growth and reforms in governance pursued in the last 5 years and sustain its present economic growth,  then the country would  be able to join the ranks of well-off countries by 2040, and reach the same levels of their per capita income. “It can be done in one generation, the way South Korea did it, the way Singapore did it, the way Malaysia is doing it now,” he said.

The meeting of Secretary Balisacan with the NRO XII officials and staff was the highlight of his overnight visit to cities of Gen. Santos and Koronadal.  Aside from the Gen. Santos City International Airport, the Secretary had a running tour of the Gen. Santos City Circumferential Road, shopping malls and other business establishments,  City Hall,  Makar Wharf,  fishport, and tuna canning factories.  Being a regular jogger, he jogged around the city early morning of October 7 to further see the ongoing developments.

Aside from his meeting with the NRO XII officials and staff in Koronadal City, Secretary Balisacan dropped by at the construction site of the new NRO XII office building in the Regional XII Center at barangay Carpenter Hill.  NRO XII is expecting the Secretary’s return to the region during the inauguration of its new office.

Secretary Balisacan was joined by NEDA Deputy-Director General Margarita R. Songco and his Executive Assistant, Karl Manalang, during his brief visit to Region XII.