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  • Writer's pictureMelo Acuna

Poverty reduction targets can still be reached

Poverty reduction, still doable despite COVID-19 pandemic

MANILA – Although Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendric Chua sees a rise in poverty incidents to 17.5 percent due to the economic slowdown brought about by tight quarantine measures which resulted into economic slowdown, he expressed optimism it would be temporary.

Speaking at the opening of the four-part webinar series of the Annual Public Policy Conference (APPC) recently held, NEDA Secretary Chua said “the contraction of the economy this year may result in the temporary and slight reversal of the significant gains made” in poverty reduction.

Secretary Chua expressed optimism the government’s goal of bringing down poverty to 14 percent by 2022 is still achievable despite the crisis.

To help usher the country’s recovery, he said several bills have been passed by Congress as well as the second part of the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act was signed by President Rodrigo Duterte into law.

For 2021, we 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 P1.12 trillion which will ensure continuous job creation,” he added.

He also noted the relaxing of quarantine restrictions which began in June that 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 explained.

He mentioned 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.

He added the lower quarantine restrictions opened more sectors of the economy and helped bring back jobs quickly.

He explained they see and significant decline in the unemployment rate from 17.7 percent in April at the height of the quarantine to 10 percent in July when they 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,” he said.

With these developments, he called on the government to remain “vigilant against possible risks” and ensure that “policy strategies are responsive” to the existing situation.

There is a 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.”

He said all these would require new technologies and creative solutions to make public service more effective and efficient.

To make the “development and diffusion of innovation across the bureaucracy and the country” prosper, he explained effective coordination across government levels must be practiced.

There is also a need to build strategic partnerships with business, 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,” Secretary Chua concluded. (Melo M. Acuña)

Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendric Chua. (NEDA File Photo)

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