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MANILA - President Benigno Aquino III's new socioeconomic planning chief on Monday said Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's term as president coincided with the Philippines' "lost decade," a period marked by moderate economic growth coupled with high income inequality.
In a speech delivered during the Bishops-Businessmen's Conference for Human Development, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan said high income inequality during the years 2000 to 2009 indicates that economic gains were not broadly distributed across the different sectors of the population.
"Opportunities remained unequal, in terms of access to health and education services, market infrastructure and employment," Balisacan said, adding that poverty reduction had been slow and lagging.
"The proportion of poor Filipinos seemed to only plateau between 2000 to 2009, when this should have gone down given the continuous economic growth during the period. This is why we term this period as our 'lost decade'," Baliscan said, referring to a description once given Japan in the late 1990s when the then world's second-biggest economy stagnated. Japan has since been overtaken by China.
Data from the National Statistical Coordination Board showed the number of poor Filipino families increasing by 185,000 from 3.67 million in 2006 to 3.86 million in 2009. This translated to an increase in the number of poor Filipinos from 22.2 million in 2006 to 23.1 million in 2009.
While the number of people employed grew faster than the number of people joining the labor force, "we can do better, especially that there is also growing number of people that is underemployed or those wanting to work longer hours, [which] may mean a lower quality of jobs being created," Balisacan said.
"We are also concerned that the share of industry to employment has not been increasing significantly. The proportion of own-account workers and unpaid family workers remain high," he added.
Balisacan, who is also director-general of the National Economic and Development Authority, said the government is committed to ensuring that there will be growth and that it will be inclusive or shared by all.
"We know that there has been growth in the economy. What we hope to see is that poverty has gone down this year," he said.
The NEDA chief said the first-quarter 6.4 percent economic growth is the highest in a non-election year since the 6.6 percent gin the second quarter of 1996.
"This gives us a level of comfort that we will be able to reach the high end of the five to six percent growth assumption for 2012," Balisacan said, citing the role of agro-industry in ensuring inclusive growth.
"To develop the country's agro-industry potential, the agriculture and fisheries sector is being supported by efficient value chains and well integrated into the domestic and international markets," he said.
Besides agriculture, the government also is working towards globally competitive and innovative industry and service sectors through the creation of a better business environment, improved productivity and efficiency, as well as enhanced consumer welfare, the NEDA chief said.
"Our policies and programs are focused on key areas that generate high quality jobs, as well as those that substantially reduce the cost of doing business. These policies and programs are aimed at further developing the sectors of tourism, BPO, housing, agribusiness, logistics, ship building, infrastructure and high-potential industries," he said.
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