Develop countryside, provide jobs


LEGAZPI CITY: Albay Gov.Joey Salceda on Thursday said that developing the countryside is the key to resolving unemployment.

Salceda, who serves as Regional Development Council chairman in Bicol, said the government should focus on sectors with the most potential like tourism, agriculture-agribusiness, mass housing and education as an industry and not on highly contentious industries such as mining.

“Let us start with an international advertising budget that matches Vietnam at around US$150 million from the current puny P1 billion, go for low-lying fruits or where the growth is easy because the base is lower and where else? the countryside,” Salceda told The Manila Times.

Despite posting a 7.8 percent growth, the country’s economy sustained jobs losses of 21,000 as employment slid to 37,819 in April 2013 from 37,840 in April 2012.

Unemployed persons swelled by 253,00 from 2.803 million to 3.086 million.

“While we would like to share the optimism that it is just a timing issue, the positive impacts of reforms are lagged. Nevertheless, from a strategic viewpoint it is safer for us to frontally deal with the central issue of the sociopolitical economy–are we focusing too much on government which accounts for only 17 percent of GDP or is it the 83 percent controlled by the private sector that is creating too many poor people. How far can we squeeze growth out of National Capital Region (NCR) where in fact the solution is decongestion?” Salceda said.

He said the NCR is the bastion of economy for the rich with the top 40 accounting for 76 percent of the increase in underlying GDP.

“This means promoting and focusing on growth areas such as Albay-Masbate-Sorsogon Tourism Development Area and lastly, we simply have to increase the absorptive capacity for investments through accelerated massive infrastructure implementation. But the P56 billion development of the Philippine National Railway’s southline to Legazpi and extension to Matnog is not a part of the national agenda,” the governor said.
Salceda, an economic consultant of former president and current Pampanga Rep. Gloria Manacapal-Arroyo, said the Philippine predicament has been overstudied and overdiscussed but remain unresolved.

“It is time for the government to take risks and use its most potent weapon to strike hard at the two-headed monster of unemployment-poverty-and that tool is its institutional capacity as a binding force for wealth creation which means the administration should move beyond the usual National Economic Development Authority portfolio of solutions.

In brief, go for business trophies especially in foreign investments which mean the President really calling up major corporations in Japan to relocate. Let us seek a list of $1billion strategic (preferably non-mining) investments,” he explained.

Salceda said that though employment may be affected by the way the government chooses to spend and the way it chooses to tax, employment is an outcome of a far more complex set of economic processes and policies, thus, the employment picture must be addressed far beyond fiscal policy.

He said the $21 billion investments that entered the country went to stock market and only $1.4 billion were real investments. The $1.4 billion went to construction of condominiums and not in factories.

“Structural injustice cannot be corrected in three years. We have a fresh and good start with the President who is honestly reformist and sincerely egalitarian but his intentions, no matter how pure, are invariably negated by the rest of the dominant players in our society,” he added.


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