Boost Mindanao economy to make PH growth more inclusive: WB

By Leslie Gatpolintan

October 5, 2017, 8:59 pm

MANILA -- The World Bank (WB) is urging the Philippines to adopt a strategy on Mindanao to support sustainable peace and development and job creation, which are deemed crucial in pursuing sustained overall economic growth in the long term.
“Mindanao is an important part of the Philippine inclusive growth story. It is no coincidence that Mindanao, which produces a large share of agriculture output at around 40 percent, also has a lot of poverty,” said WB research analyst Kevin Cruz in a press briefing on Thursday.

Cruz said raising Mindanao’s agricultural productivity could further increase domestic output and reduce prices of food and other goods across the country.

Mindanao accounts for 40 percent of the country’s total agricultural output and 60 percent of all agricultural exports. However, only 16 percent of Mindanao farmers produce a marketable surplus and more than half of farm households are poor.

Mindanao is estimated to have 25 percent of the country’s population and 37 percent of the country’s poor.

A WB report pushed for strategies for job creation, focusing on raising agricultural productivity and improving farm-to-market connectivity; boosting human development through greater investments in health, education and skills; and building effective institutions in conflict-affected areas for better service delivery.

WB Lead Economist for the Philippines Birgit Hansl is optimistic the Philippines could achieve its goal of becoming an upper middle-income economy in the medium term, given its growth path.

The Bank projected Philippine growth at 6.6 percent in 2017 and 6.7 percent in 2018 and 2019.
“For (the) medium term, there will be no doubt that this is (an) achievable result but this is dependent on policies that make growth that is continuing to happen more inclusive,” said Hansl.

She said an increase in public spending on infrastructure building is expected to boost investment growth.

“Higher investment growth could push the country’s growth rate towards the upper end of the government’s target of 6.5 to 7.5 percent of GDP (gross domestic product), but this is contingent on the public infrastructure program gaining full traction,” she added.

Slightly lower economic growth might slow the pace of poverty reduction, but the WB report also expects poverty reduction to continue as the government’s strategy for more inclusive growth strengthens. (PNA)