Neda: Fight vs inflation vital in cutting poverty incidence


THE fight against rising prices is a crucial ingredient in the country’s efforts to see poverty incidence slow to single-digit levels by the time the President steps down from office in 2028, according to the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda).

In the Philippine Economic Briefing (PEB) in Washington on the sidelines of the World Bank-International Monetary Fund (IMF) Spring meetings, Neda Secretary Arsenio M. Balisacan said the recent spike in inflation is “anti-poor” since it is driven by food prices.

Based on data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), the weight of food in the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for all households is 34.72 percent while for the Bottom 30 percent, the weight is heavier at 51.38 percent, making the poorest Filipinos more vulnerable to expensive food prices.

“The high inflation, just to be frank, the high inflation that we have seen in the last couple of months, that’s very anti-poor, especially that it’s coming from food. But our below 10 estimate is for the end of 2028 so we have a lot of time to do good, especially in agriculture,” Balisacan said. “Yes, we are on track because 2028 is so far away.”

The government aims to reduce poverty to 9 percent by 2028 from the 18.1 percent recorded in the 2021 poverty data released by the PSA. This meant that in 2021, some 19.99 million Filipinos lived below the poverty line.

In order to reduce this, Balisacan said the government will focus on job creation, particularly quality employment, in the medium term. This means, there is a need to entice “a lot of investments” from abroad.

Balisacan said this means it’s not just the number of jobless Filipinos that needs to be cut, but also the number of those who are underemployed—people looking for higher incomes or more stable sources of income.

There are two kinds of underemployment—visible and invisible. Filipinos who are visibly underemployed are those working less than 40 hours in a week and expressed the desire to have additional hours of work in their present job or to have additional jobs.

Those deemed in invisible underemployment work at least 40 hours in a week but still desire to have additional hours of work in their present job or to have an additional job, or to have a new job with longer working hours.

“Getting the quality of jobs available is so crucial to achieving our poverty target. To make that happen, we need to get investments. A lot of investment is coming in because that’s what will increase productivity at the end of the day,” Balisacan said.

Meanwhile, in his presentation at the PEB, Balisacan urged American businesses to invest in infrastructure projects in the Philippines.

He underscored several factors which make the Philippines a more attractive investment destination, including, among others, rapid and sustained economic growth, the country’s young, vibrant, and growing working-age population, and recent structural and regulatory reforms aimed at improving the business climate for international investors. 

“Given the country’s numerous development and infrastructure needs, there are vast opportunities in sectors such as energy, water, logistics, transportation, agribusiness, manufacturing, tourism, health, education, and digital connectivity,” he explained. 

Balisacan also assured investors of the country’s commitment to infrastructure development. He said the government has a total of 3,770 infrastructure priority programs and projects (PAPs) with an indicative total investment requirement of P17.3 trillion or $317.49 billion in the medium term.

This includes 194 Infrastructure Flagship Projects (IFPs) recently approved by the President, worth a total of approximately $165 billion.

Of this number, 95 are ongoing or have been approved for implementation; 47 are currently being prepared; 44 are in preproject preparation; and eight are up for approval by the government.

“IFPs shall be prioritized in the government’s annual budget preparation and shall enjoy the benefits of expedited approval processes consistent with current legal frameworks. Notably, the majority of these infrastructure flagship projects focus on physical connectivity and water resources. We are committed to creating a more competitive investment environment,” he said.