Implementing Inclusive and Sustainable Growth in the Philippines
By ERNESTO M. PERNIA, Ph.D.
Secretary of Socioeconomic Planning
(Editor’s note: On June 20, 2019, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary and NEDA Chief Ernesto M. Pernia delivered this enlightening keynote address at the European Innovation, Technology, and Science Center Foundation’s “Forum on Achieving Win-Win Approaches in Sustainable Development Advocacy” at Dusit Thani Hotel, Makati City.)
Ladies and gentlemen, good morning!
I would like to thank the European Innovation, Technology, and Science Center Foundation (EITSC) for inviting me to today’s forum.
Let me start by saying that sustainable (or self-sustaining, as in growth that moves forward on its own steam) and inclusive development is the overall goal of government. Indeed, self-sustaining and inclusive growth is the battle cry of the Philippine Development Plan, or PDP, the country’s blueprint for development. NEDA, in particular, remains focused on and dedicated to its work so that Filipinos all over can share in economic growth and prosperity.
With this in mind, we deliberately designed the PDP 2017-2022 back in 2016 to be anchored on the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations, and on the 0-10 points Socioeconomic Agenda of the Duterte administration.
More importantly, this is the first time government is working towards a long-term vision, which the PDP is geared towards. This is called AmBisyon Natin 2040, the outcome of a nationwide study we conducted in 2015. According to extensive focus group discussions and a nationwide survey, we found that Filipinos aspire for a life that is simple, but comfortable and secure. They want to be healthy, they want to be able to send their kids to college and travel for leisure, they want to live in an innovative society, and they want to be empowered by a just and trustworthy government.
I am sure you and I share the same aspirations as well.
AmBisyon Natin 2040 is a 25-year vision that serves as a guide for this administration and the succeeding three administrations. The idea behind AmBisyon Natin 2040 is for government to have a longer perspective on development planning. With a national vision, a common dream, we can better promote continuity, ensuring that each administration builds on the gains of previous ones.
Armed with this vision, one notable feature of the PDP is a National Spatial Strategy, which tackles spatial inequalities by linking lagging regions with leading ones.
As recently reported, the country experienced an appreciable decline in poverty incidence among Filipinos, from 27.6 percent in the first half of 2015 down to 21 percent in the first half of 2018. That’s 6.6 percentage points in three years. Also in the news today were the SWS results on self-rated poverty that dropped from 50 percent in December 2018 to 38 percent in the first quarter of 2019.
While this is notable, we cannot ignore the stark disparities in poverty or progress among regions. A National Spatial Strategy will allow for better regional transport infrastructure that will create opportunities for production, employment, and livelihood in areas outside the leading urban centers such as Metro Manila, Metro Cebu, Davao and Cagayan de Oro.
Last May, I represented the country at the 75th Session of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, or UNESCAP. At the gathering, I zeroed in and around the Sustainable Development Goals, and talked about how the country is working towards social inclusivity and equality.
In our country statement, I stressed that achieving inclusive and sustainable growth requires the engagement of all stakeholders—a whole-of-society approach—and not just involving the government.
Going back to the crafting of the PDP, we made sure to involve all stakeholders by consulting not only government agencies at the national and local levels, but also academia, non-government organizations, the private sector, and civil society across the various regions. We also posted the draft Plan online to make it possible for the wider public to give their comments and suggestions.
Another example of this whole-of-society approach is our country’s Conditional Cash Transfer program, for which we tapped both private and non-government organizations to provide alternative modes of education. Government is also promoting open distance learning systems so more people have access to education and training opportunities.
One more example is the Expanded Maternity Leave Act, which extends maternity leave benefits from 60 to 105 days. While the law’s passage was mostly the doing of government, we are counting on the private sector to implement non-discrimination laws such as this, to ensure that women receive equal opportunities in the workplace (if not at home).
Indeed, inclusive development requires inclusive participation and inclusive effort.
More than this, inclusive development also requires sustainable business practices.
It is encouraging to see many businesses—both big and small—open opportunities for the poor and marginalized to participate in production value chains. We owe such initiatives partly to the recently issued Sustainability Reporting Guidelines for Publicly Listed Companies of the SEC, which reports and recognizes good business practices specifically in promoting social, environmental, and economic sustainability.
We also laud the passage of the Green Jobs Act that supports the creation of environment-sensitive jobs, and incentivizes businesses that use green technologies.
Other policies consistent with inclusive practices include the Ease of Doing Business Act, the Community Empowerment through Science and Technology Program, OneStop Lab, and One Expert Program that help local communities and micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) find gainful employment.
Another significant initiative is the Philippine Innovation Act, which is awaiting the President’s signature and is expected to be passed into law very soon. This Act champions the promotion of technological advancement so as to enhance the competitiveness of our Filipino MSMEs. With science, technology, and innovation integrated into national programs and plans—referred to as STI ecosystem—our MSMEs may integrate more easily into domestic and global supply chains. NEDA will be drafting its Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) once the Innovation Act is signed.
The Philippine Innovation Act will be a landmark legislation because we believe that innovation is an important driver of long-term growth, and that science and technology is key to making the Philippines a more competitive player in the global knowledge arena.
As such, the PDP specifically mentions the need to vigorously advance Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) so that we can readily respond to and thrive in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, or Industry 4.0. This is why government is directing investments to not just physical infrastructure, but also human capital formation through quality health, nutrition, and education.
All these mentioned, know that the government is taking small but consistent steps in its walk towards participative growth. This also shows that partnerships are a vital, if not fundamental, factor in achieving economic growth that is both inclusive and self-sustaining.
Again, economic development requires the effort and participation of all of society. This considered, we look forward to strengthening ties with the EITSC and other development and private organizations to achieve win-win approaches in sustainable development. We, government workers, extend our hands as your partners.
Thank you everyone, and good morning.