Unlocking Mindanao’s potential is key to reducing poverty and achieving more inclusive growth nationwide, the World Bank said.
“Economic progress in the Philippines will depend on the success of economic development in Mindanao, as it is hard to see how the country can achieve sustained and inclusive growth without progress in this region,”
World Bank Lead Economist for the Philippines, Birgit Hansl said on Thursday during the release of the lender’s latest Philippines Economic Update.
Like the rest of the Philippines, the central policy challenge for Mindanao is how to accelerate inclusive growth — the type that creates more and better jobs and reduces poverty.
“37 percent of the country’s poor population lives in Mindanao, although the region only represents about 25 percent of the country’s population,” Hansl said.
Tackling the issue has been made more difficult because of longstanding armed conflict in the region.
While progress has been made in making growth more inclusive, Hansl said Mindanao still trailed the rest of the Philippines in terms of shared prosperity.
This is compounded by the weakness of the region’s economy, resulting from decades of armed conflict and also a narrow growth strategy.
“Resolving the conflicts in Mindanao rests on addressing the root causes of conflict and providing jobs and economic opportunities as alternatives to violence,” she said.
Hansl added that economic and political factors were both driving conflicts and attaining just and lasting peace would require political solutions to address issues such as injustice, weak governance, land disputes and discrimination.
Peace agreements signed in the past were not enough to put all of Mindanao on a path to inclusive growth, she said.
“This special focus note, which is based on the main findings of the World Bank’s Philippines Mindanao Jobs Report, proposes a comprehensive strategy for unlocking Mindanao’s potential, including interventions in the region that will support sustainable peace and development and job creation,” Hansl said.
Efforts should be focused on agricultural productivity and farm-to-market connectivity, human development, drivers of conflict and fragility and institutions in Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao and conflict-affected areas.
The World Bank said its engagement in Mindanao would be based on this strategy.
Policy recommendations include increasing agricultural productivity by improving extension and irrigation services along with price reforms to realize Mindanao’s agriculture potential; building up logistics and transport connectivity by improving road networks and the efficiency of shipping services to reduce trade costs; improving the supply of reliable power and the speed, affordability, and quality of information and communications technology services by fostering competition; and supporting private investment by addressing the growing skills gap and the high regulatory burden for businesses, and improving financial inclusion and land governance.