Secretary Karl Kendrick Chua of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) said that poverty incidence might temporarily climb to 17.5 percent, given the economic slowdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In his keynote speech during the opening of the four-part webinar series of the Annual Public Policy Conference (APPC) held recently, Chua explained that the “contraction of the economy this year may result in the temporary yet slight reversal of the significant gains made” in poverty reduction.
But Chua remains optimistic that the goal of bringing down poverty to 14 percent by 2022 is still doable despite the crisis.
To aid the country’s recovery, several bills have been passed by Congress recently. The second part of the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act was signed into law by President Rodrigo Duterte.
“For 2021, we are currently working with both houses of Congress to pass a budget that will be more responsive to the needs of the country, including the creation of around 1.6 million jobs as the infrastructure budget is increased to PHP 1.12 trillion which will ensure continuous job creation,” Chua said.
Meanwhile, he noted that relaxing the quarantine restrictions starting in June has yielded positive results.
“Some monthly indicators such as the growth of the power transmission energy delivery, volume of manufacturing production, and merchandise trade have generally begun to [demonstrate a] U-turn since May and June, and continued to show improvement in more recent data releases,” Chua said.
He also mentioned that the country’s inflation rate has remained low and stable due to the adequate supply of essential commodities and reforms like the Rice Tariffication Law.
Chua said that “the lower quarantine restrictions opened more sectors of the economy and helped bring back jobs quickly.”
“We are seeing a significant decline in the unemployment rate from 17.7 percent in April at the height of the quarantine to 10 percent in July when we relaxed the quarantine, and also a decline in the underemployment rate. All in all, 7.5 million jobs were restored to the economy in just one quarter as the quarantine restriction eased,” Chua elaborated.
Despite these developments, he urged the government to remain “vigilant against possible risks” and ensure that “policy strategies are responsive” to the current situation.
He stressed the need for the government to “provide the direction and impetus for innovation” and “set an example by recalibrating its systems and processes to suit the demands of the new normal”.
According to Chua, these would entail using new technologies and creative solutions to make public service delivery more effective and efficient.
To make the “development and diffusion of innovation across the bureaucracy and the country” prosper, he said that effective coordination across government levels must be practiced.
The socioeconomic planning secretary also emphasized the significance of “building strategic partnerships with the business sector, academe, and the scientific community is an effective way to address resource constraints and tapping the wealth of ideas, technologies, expertise, and networks that reside outside of government”.
“Effective public-private cooperation in technology generation, testing, polishing, and transfer is crucial to make governance innovation happen, especially in the new normal,” Chua concluded.
The APPC serves as the main and culminating activity of the Development Policy Research Month celebration led by PIDS every September to promote policy research's significance in crafting evidence-based policies and programs. This year’s DPRM theme is “Bouncing Back Together: Innovating Governance for the New Normal”. ###