Socioeconomic Planning Secretary and NEDA Director-General

“Towards Zero Poverty: Pursuing Inclusive Development and Shared Prosperity”
Palawan Ballroom, EDSA Shangri-la
23 September 2015

Distinguished resource speakers and presenters, colleagues in the academe and government, friends from civil society, partners from the international development community, ladies and gentlemen, good morning!

I am very pleased to welcome all of you to the culminating event of the poverty reduction workshop series which bears the theme, “Towards Zero Poverty: Pursuing Inclusive Development and Shared Prosperity”. Once again we are gathered here today to discuss and identify some of the key challenges that we need to aggressively address in order to accelerate and sustain poverty reduction efforts in the Philippines. We commend the AIM RSN Policy Center for Competitiveness, in partnership with the NEDA and the UNDP, for successfully organizing this series of workshops with our country’s top economists and development experts, as part of the AIM’s project: Towards Zero Poverty.

Indeed, a major challenge in promoting inclusivity in the Philippines is how to significantly improve the rate of poverty reduction at par with the progress of our regional neighbors. While several decades of research have deepened our understanding of the most binding constraints to reducing poverty in the country and have led to the formulation and implementation of various anti-poverty programs and policies, the rate of poverty reduction has not been as desired.

Hence, if we are to achieve inclusive and sustainable development, we need evidence-based strategies and interventions that take into consideration the varying development constraints faced by the poor when they try to participate in the growth process. These include geographical differences, climactic shocks, governance, and other factors. Such constraints require us to be more precise in our poverty reduction strategies, even in our interventions to promote economic growth to ensure that it will be inclusive.

During the first workshop, we focused on the Philippines’ current poverty reduction efforts and examined the merits and challenges of the direct intervention policies of the government. More importantly, we highlighted the overall need for the country to undergo structural transformation, which involves the massive movement of labor from low productivity areas to high-productivity areas.

In the second workshop, we discussed in further detail structural transformation in the agricultural and manufacturing sectors, particularly its importance in reducing poverty and promoting inclusion. We know that manufacturing is a key driver of growth and driver of technological progress in the economy given its strong linkage into other economic sectors. Thus, one of the government’s key strategies to attain higher productivity growth and greater diversity of economic structure is to revive the Philippine manufacturing sector.

However, we also recognize that reviving Philippine industries requires addressing key binding constraints to development and pursuing the necessary policy tools and interventions that are focused on improving the country’s long-term competitiveness. These include, for example, developing a strategic industrial policy to improve industries’ competitiveness and productivity and continuous increase in investments in human capital development, especially in health, education, and social protection. The latter will enable us to enhance the productivity of our people and our economic sectors, which in turn, influence income levels, returns to investment, and growth potential.

To further increase competitiveness and be at par with our regional neighbors, we must also pay greater attention to technological readiness and innovation by harnessing appropriate science and technology and investing aptly in research and development (R&D).

Of course, enhancing the country’s competitiveness depends on the implementation of good policies and practices that improve the business environment and further promote greater human resource development. Good governance and credible institutions are therefore crucial in this respect. As we have discussed during the third workshop, good governance is necessary to ensure that policies translate to efficient public spending and effective government programs. For this, we need to continuously address horizontal issues and improve coordination among government agencies as well as between the stakeholders in the private sector and the government.

I understand that in today’s discussions we will further navigate the role of good governance in poverty reduction. We will also tackle the importance of food security in reducing poverty and the ways to move forward in terms of promoting high productivity across all sectors. This workshop provides a great opportunity to have comprehensive and evidence-based assessment on where our country stands right now in terms of addressing these issues. I hope that the outcomes of these discussions will give us a more informed analysis to aid current and future policies of the government toward pursuing inclusive development and shared prosperity.

I wish you fruitful discussions ahead. Thank you and good morning.