FOR the Philippines to further grow its economy, it must have sound economic policies and a well-coordinated and effective delivery of services both in the local and national levels. The further reduction of poverty, especially in Mindanao, the expansion of infrastructure connectivity and access to services and markets for increased employment and incomes, as well as improved productivity in the agriculture, industry, and services sectors must also be considered for moving ahead.
So says Richard Bolt, country director for the Philippines at the Asian Development Bank (ADB), a multilateral lender based in Manila. Speaking before The Manila Times’ 5th Business Forum, in Davao City, Bolt also says Friday that the country needs to sustain its strong economic growth of 6.8 percent posted in 2016. “There’s a need to sustain growth on buoyant domestic consumption and public and private partnership for the Philippine economy remains strong,” he stresses at the Feb. 10 forum called “The Philippine Economic Outlook for 2017: Peace Toward Sustainable Prosperity,” in Marco Polo Hotel. He also cites strong domestic demand supported by expansionary fiscal policy as well as higher local employment as among the vital signs of a healthy economy.
He praises the 10-point socioeconomic agenda being pursued by the Duterte administration that includes, among other measures, tax reforms, ease of doing business, the development of agriculture, and increased spending on public infrastructure (see cover story). “We are happy with President Duterte’s 10-point economic agenda and how it is progressing,” the ADB executive stresses during his presentation titled “Philippine Economic Update: Prospects and Development Challenges.” While the 10-point agenda is the administration’s anchor for the medium term, he explains, the country’s “2040 Vision” provides the long-term framework for development.
The Philippine government has an ambitious economic program of wanting to reduce poverty incidence to 14 percent by 2022, when Duterte steps down from office, and to bring the country to high middle-income status by 2040. Reason why the government aims for a 7-percent GDP growth or better over the next six years, according to remarks made by Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez 3rd in the same forum.
Bolt says ADB supports the Philippines’ various development programs, such as the 4Ps or conditional cash transfer (CCT), which improves health and education among poor families, as well as contributes “to a decline in conflict-related incidents where the program is delivered.” The lender also supports the strengthening of service delivery by local governments through financing, coordinating area and sector development planing, and developing LGU capacity starting from the southern Philippine island of Mindanao.
Other programs that the ADB supports are the K-to-12 education system, which covers 13 years of basic education to enhance a student’s skills and prepare him for lifelong learning and employment; the JobStart youth-to-school transition, which enhances early employability among the young workforce; and public employment services.
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Country Director, Philippines Country Office Asian Development Bank
AS HEAD of Asian Development Bank’s Philippines Country Office (PhCO) since March 2014, Bolt oversees the preparation of partnership strategy, operations business plan, economic monitoring and reporting, portfolio management, and supporting loan processing and administration. His responsibilities include liaising closely with a full-range of development partners, including government, civil society, private sector, and other funding agencies.
Prior to his current position at ADB, where he has worked for 17 years, Bolt was advisor for Knowledge and Results Management, in the development organization’s Southeast Asia Dept., coordinating the department’s disaster risk management support to the region.
Immediately after Supertyphoon Yolanda hit the Philippines in Nov. 2013, Bolt was assigned as technical team leader to ADB’s response to the calamity and, subsequently, as head of ADB Extended Mission to Yolanda-Affected Areas. He was also the team leader for the 2008 Philippines country assistance program evaluation.
Having more than 25 years of experience in development planning, management and evaluation, Bolt, a Canadian, has worked throughout Southeast Asia, China, the Pacific, and East and Southern Africa. He holds a master’s degree in tropical agricultural development from the University of Reading, and a degree in agricultural economics from the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, both in the UK.