World Bank tells PH to reduce poverty faster

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(File photo)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 30) — While poverty declined during the Arroyo and Aquino administrations, its reduction has been sluggish with a dismal average of 0.9 percentage points per year between 2006 and 2015, the World Bank said.

The Washington-based multilender said in its report "Making Growth Work for the Poor: A Poverty Assessment for the Philippines" the country needs to do more despite the poverty rate declining from 26.6 percent in 2006 to 21.6 percent in 2015.

The World Bank added that the country needs to catch up with its neighbors China, Indonesia and Vietnam which are reducing poverty at faster rates.

Its latest data show that in 2015, some 22 million Filipinos, or more than one-fifth of the population, still live below the national poverty line. Two out of five poor Filipinos live in Mindanao, the report said.

READ: Making Growth Work for the Poor: A Poverty Assessment for the Philippines

"Making a difference in Mindanao makes a big difference to the Philippines. Increasing public investment in Mindanao to boost development there would expand opportunities for conflict-affected communities, broaden access to services and create more and better jobs," said Xubei Luo, Senior Economist at the World Bank's Poverty and Equity Global Practice.

Typhoons and armed conflicts keep many Filipinos poor, the report said. These Filipinos escape poverty by fleeing farm work and ending up in service and manufacturing sector jobs in the urban areas - industries recently flagged for conducting illegal contracting practices.

Still, jobs outside of the agriculture sector accounted for two-thirds of the country's progress in reducing poverty. Government cash handouts (the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program) accounted for 25 percent of poverty reduction, domestic remittances: 12 percent and foreign remittances: six percent.

READ: Anti-poverty convenor wants alternative to 4Ps

The World Bank cited the Credit Suisse Wealth Report showing that the richest 1 percent of Filipinos own more than 50 percent of the country's wealth, a rate of inequality only topped by Russia, Turkey and Hong Kong. "High concentrations of wealth constrain equal opportunities and access to services, which are necessary for inclusive growth," the Bank said.

The World Bank urged the government to provide more economic opportunities, which would help many more people earn higher and stable incomes.

"With a strong economy, the country is well-placed to end the vicious cycles of unequal opportunity that trap people in poverty, set in place measures to improve service delivery, and boost job opportunities," said Mara Warwick, World Bank Country Director for Brunei, Malaysia, Philippines, and Thailand.

READ: SWS: 1 out of 3 escaped poverty in Q1; 1 out 8 fell into poverty

The National Economic and Development Authority said the World Bank's recommendations complement their strategies in the the Philippine Development Plan (PDP) 2017-2022.

"The assessment of the World Bank is a good confirmation of what we have been advocating for. Similarly, the PDP 2017-2022 spells out strategies and priorities to lay down a solid foundation for more inclusive growth. The assessment provides us an opportunity to strengthen our collaboration in addressing poverty," Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia said.

The plan targets reducing poverty to 13 to 15 percent by 2022. To help achieve these targets, the Poverty Assessment recommends the following policy directions:

  • Create more and better jobs;
  • Improve productivity in all sectors, especially agriculture;
  • Equip Filipinos with skills needed for the 21st century economy;
  • Invest in health and nutrition;
  • Focus poverty reduction efforts on Mindanao; and
  • Manage disaster risks and protect the vulnerable.