ADB vows support for Duterte economic agenda

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Manila-based multilateral lender Asian Development Bank (ADB) on Friday expressed support for the Duterte administration’s 10-point economic agenda and affirmed strong partnership for promoting sustainable economic growth, reducing poverty, and improving the welfare and livelihoods of Filipinos.

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With a target of more than $1 billion of approved sovereign loans in 2016, ADB said it is ready to increase assistance further based on discussion with the new administration.

“Our support will be tailored to the government’s socio-economic and poverty reduction priorities, and to the country’s middle-income status. We are looking forward to further discussions on how we can best support the country,” ADB President Takehiko Nakao said in a statement.

ADB expects the Philippine economy to grow 6 percent this year and 6.1 percent next year, due primarily to higher private consumption and investment. Earlier, the debt watcher Standard & Poor had forecast 6.1 percent growth this year and 6.3 percent next year while global banking giant HSBC revised its previous projections of 5.9 percent for this year and 5.8 percent for next to 6.3 percent in both 2016 and 2017. The growth rate in 2015 was 5.9 percent.

Despite the bullish outlook, the ADB said challenges however remain in creating better jobs and reducing underemployment especially in rural areas.

Nakao said the Philippines could harness its vast potential by tapping its young and educated population in pursuit of higher productivity and job creation, especially in such areas as small- and medium-enterprises, tourism and agri-business.

With this, ADB said it is prepared to support areas such as accelerating infrastructure development with special attention to the role of public-private partnerships; rural and value chain development in agriculture; improving human capital investment including health and education; and social protection through conditional cash transfers.

Nakao emphasized that ADB can help the country to incorporate innovations in infrastructure development, based on its extensive experience in countries and access to global knowledge and advanced technologies.

He reiterated the lender’s commitment to supporting the government’s efforts to bring lasting peace and development to Mindanao.

ADB said it is actively working with local authorities to prepare the Mindanao Development Program, and on various projects to develop road infrastructure.

These include the upgrading national roads in central, southern and western Mindanao, which will improve the area’s linkages with national and regional markets.

Commenting on ADB’s support, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez 3rd said the multilateral lender’s backing would go a long way in helping President Rodrigo Duterte deliver on his electoral mandate to bring progress to all Filipinos.

“This is because the strengthened partnership between the Bank and the Philippine government on the Duterte presidency would, as conveyed by Mr. Nakao, focus on key areas that the 10-point agenda itself aims to harness to enable our people to truly benefit from a strong economy that the ADB projects to grow beyond 6 percent in 2017,” he said.

ADB provided its first loan in the Philippines in 1969 to support private enterprise development, followed by a loan to support agriculture and rural development in Mindanao.

Since then, it has provided $15.9 billion in sovereign loans, $1 billion in non-sovereign operations (loans, equity investment, and guarantees to the private sector), and $93 million in technical assistance.

In the aftermath of Super Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) in 2013, ADB provided $900 million for typhoon-affected areas.

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