BAGAC, Bataan: The Philippines can reduce poverty if it maintains economic growth of between 5 and 6 percent per year, a World Bank official told delegates at an Asia-Pacific Economic Conference (APEC) meeting here.
“If the Philippines is growing in the range of 5 to 6 percent, it can reduce poverty completely within the generation,” said Roger van den Brink, lead economist at the Poverty Reduction and Economic Management Department (PREM) for East Asia and the Pacific Region of the World Bank.
“Underemployment is going down, income is going up fast and poverty is going down,” he said.
Brink was one of the speakers of the two-day APEC Workshop on Fiscal Management through Transparency and Reforms held at the Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar in Bagac, Bataan.
He pointed out that since 2013, there has been a definite change in the pattern of growth based on reliable data from household and labor surveys that was difficult to see before 2013.
Brink underscored that it does not matter whether the growth is 7 percent, 6 percent or 5 percent, adding that he has not known if his country, Holland, has attained a growth rate of 5 percent.
“What matters a lot is how the growth reaches the poor,” he added.
Budget Undersecretary Richard Moya cited data the effect of economic growth on the health needs of the people.
“We have covered many of the poorest of the poor by paying the premiums for Philhealth cards with funds sourced from sin taxes and less interest payments,” he said.
On revenue generation, Moya noted that the national government improved efficiency in tax collection and increased revenue, citing the introduction of so-called “sin taxes,” or excise taxes imposed on goods perceived to be harmful to consumers such as alcoholic beverages and cigarettes.
Moya also admitted and defended the government’s underspending.
“By underspending, we spent less in interest payments but more on social spending like Philhealth, so we were able to serve many of the poorest of the poor. So, under-spending is not bad,” Moya said.