IT’S back to the drawing board for the government’s development planners following the findings of the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB) that the administration’s poverty-reduction program has failed.
According to Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz, President Aquino ordered a “thorough review” of the Philippine Medium- and Long-Term Development Plan to address the country’s chronic poverty.
Mr. Aquino was apparently extremely disappointed by the findings of the NSCB that the government’s poverty-reduction program has failed despite substantial growth as measured by gross domestic product (GDP) and the historic gains made by the Philippine Stock Exchange index (PSEi).
In Malacañang, Spokesman Edwin Lacierda said the government will mount “action plan for employment generation” but warned the people against expectations of early results. He also said both chambers of Congress must help the government in this regard.
“The poverty incidence, we believe, will go down, decline. But let me state that this is not an overnight thing,” he said. “This is a work in progress.”
Lacierda said Malacañang has already identified the areas where improvement was needed.
“Our focus now is on agriculture. That’s where we found growth to be slow, so we are identifying that. And
bulk of the population is still involved with the agriculture sector and we have what we call the human-development cluster that has come up with the action plan for employment generation,” Lacierda told reporters.
The NSCB, an attached agency of the National Economic and Development Authority, revealed that the poverty incidence in the Philippines has remained the same at 27.9 percent of the first semester of 2012.
“Comparing this with the 2006 and 2009 first-semester figures estimated at 28.8 percent and 28.6 percent, respectively, poverty remained unchanged as the computed differences are not statistically significant,” said NSCB Secretary-General Jose Ramon G. Albert.
In a news briefing at the Bayleaf hotel in Manila, Baldoz said the President wanted the review to not focus on the GDP’s growth but on making “employment as central to growth.”
That growth, currently at 6.6 percent, remains “consumer-led [and] driven by remittances [from] overseas Filipino workers,” she said. “The government believes that growth should come from the agriculture and manufacturing sectors. We should also invest more in education and health.”
Baldoz met with 10 chief executive officers (CEOs) of 10 micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) who were sent by the Department of Labor and Employment to undergo a five-day intensive training on productivity at the Nanyang Polytechnic in Singapore.
“We have been speaking of productivity in riddles, as if it is an abstract concept, but we have not concretely given our MSMEs the capacity on how they could grow and contribute to Philippine competitiveness,” Baldoz said.
The CEOs raised the issue of the lack of qualified highly skilled workers and professionals. Engaged in food, green energy, handicrafts and services, most come from the manufacturing sector. Those heading food companies said there were not enough graduates of chemistry and food technology to help them in product development.
Baldoz said the productivity training for the CEOs of the MSMEs would help them enhance skills of their employees, enabling them to work effectively.
Companies could make their employees more productive by giving them decent pay and protecting their health against hazardous chemicals and unsanitary workplaces.
The labor chief said the government should also “invest heavily” in the education and health of the people in order to produce a highly qualified work force.
“The key to poverty alleviation is to increase productivity and competitiveness of the country’s MSMEs and expand their role in economic development,” she added.
The statistical board on Tuesday said 22.3 percent of Filipino families remain poor as of the first half of 2012, slightly lower than 22.9 percent in the same period in 2009. –Estrella Torres and Butch Fernandez, Businessmirror