INVESTING in higher education for human capital development is an effective way to achieve sustainable inclusive growth, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan said.
Two priority areas that the government should invest in to sustain robust economic growth are “physical infrastructure and human capital development,” Balisacan said in a speech at a forum on Tuesday, noting that infrastructure helps create opportunities and businesses and human capital provides quality labor force.
The “most enabling instrument to lift people from poverty is through better education and health outcomes,” said Balisacan, who is also the director general of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA).
In the past few years, the government has been underspending in human capital development, as reflected in the inability of the poor to benefit from the country’s economic growth.
“But in recent years, wider fiscal space accompanied by budget reforms, provided
government with flexibility to increase human capital investments, particularly in education, health services, and social protection programs,” Balisacan said.
Dante Canlas, economist at the University of the Philippines, presented his paper at the same event, stressing the need for investment in human capital by focusing on higher education.
“Inclusive growth ensures that the rewards of growth are within reach of every Filipino, and this will be felt if there is more investment in human capital, especially in the higher education,” Canlas said.
Canlas noted that higher education brings knowledge and technological progress as sources of growth on a sustained basis.
But the UP economist noted that financial challenges will be a major road block to workers who have the potential but not the means to pay for school fees.
Philippine Business for Education President Chito Salazar said about 80 percent of graduates in higher education came from the private schools, which cost much more than the most of the “lower quality” public schools.
Salazar is urging the government and industries to raise opportunities for higher education, particularly in the private sector, to match worker skills with their respective fields and raise the quality of education.
Balisacan cited that the government has hiked its conditional cash transfer program by 500 percent since 2010 – and now covers 4 million households – partly to provide for the schooling of the beneficiaries.
“This initiative not only aims to combat inter-generational poverty but also targets to develop our human resources by widening access to basic education up to high school,” Balisacan said.
“Nevertheless, human capital formation will only lead to inclusivity if the poor can benefit from recent growth. This is in the form of having suitable and stable employment once they enter the work force,” the NEDA chief said.
“For this reason, we must continuously identify and implement educational reforms, enhance workforce competencies, align education and training programs to respond to industry requirements, provide training programs to upgrade skills that can reduce job-worker mismatches, and further equalize opportunities,” he added.