MANILA, Aug. 10 -- The Philippines needs to invest more in quality education and health services in order to benefit from its demographics deemed an important factor driving the economy.

National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Director-General Ernesto Pernia said human capital investments should reach three percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).

“That is the norm in other countries, three percent. But I think we are spending less. We can gradually (increase) to that,” he said in an interview on the sidelines of Dutertenomics forum in Makati City.

Pernia noted education and health are “soft infrastructure” imperative for economic development.

He said investments also include improving hospitals or building new ones in the regions, and plans on improving the quality of health services and nutrition.

“(The government’s) “build, build, build” (program) has to do not only with physical infrastructure but also “build, build, build” of human infrastructure especially because we have a young population,” Pernia said during the forum.

“We cannot really maximize what we call the demographic dividend unless we invest adequately in quality health and education services,” he added.

Meanwhile, the NEDA chief said there are 75 high-impact infrastructure flagship projects the NEDA Board approved for adoption, which he considered as game changing projects” all over the country.

“Most of these (projects), we’ll try to process and complete within the term of the President (Rodrigo Duterte) especially those that would have been started this year,” he said.

Pernia further said that apart from the 75 flagship projects, the government has 5,000 minor projects like irrigation and road widening all over the country.

“The thrust of the development strategy is really rural and regional development and this can be facilitated by investing or building infrastructure in areas outside Metro Manila, especially the lagging regions so that they can join the mainstream economy,” he added. (PNA)

(PNA file photo by Avito C. Dalan)