MANILA >> Philippine President-elect Rodrigo Duterte’s economic team said Monday it wants to cut the country’s poverty rate by at least 30 to 35 percent during his 6-year term, focusing on projects to lift the rural poor.
Incoming Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez said the new administration, which takes office June 30, plans to reduce poverty — now afflicting a quarter of the more than 100 million Filipinos — by 1.25 percent to 1.5 percent each year through 2022.
“We are going to prioritize projects outside Metro Manila,” Dominguez told a media briefing in southern Davao city. “We are going to execute projects in the countryside and thereby create jobs there.”
He said a majority of about 10 million Filipinos who are underemployed live in rural areas and in secondary cities so those areas will be emphasized.
Dominguez said about 80 percent of the big-ticket projects proposed by the outgoing administration under a private-public partnership scheme are in metropolitan Manila or nearby provinces. To continue spending money there would further congest those areas and not solve the problem of unemployment and underemployment in the countryside, he said.
The new administration will spend about 1 trillion pesos ($21.5 billion), or nearly a third of the annual government budget, in its first year on small- and medium-scale infrastructure projects such as farm-to-market roads and schools that are easier to complete quickly, incoming Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno said.
The Duterte administration will also try to ensure peace and order in outlying areas to create a business environment that will allow jobs to be created there, and will implement an already-passed reproductive health law to reduce the birth rate, Dominguez said.
Incoming Economic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia said lowering the birth rate to three children for the poorest quintile of couples could reduce poverty by close to 20 percent by reducing the amount spent on child rearing.
The Philippine economy has been growing at an average of 6.2 percent over the last six years, among the highest rates in the region, and Duterte’s economic team credited the outgoing government of President Benigno Aquino for creating more quality jobs.
But Dominguez said the election has shown that Filipinos are impatient to see economic growth translate into a better life for all.