MANILA, May 17 (Xinhua) -- The Philippine government needs to achieve high economic growth and expand access to basic services to reduce poverty incidence, a senior official said Thursday.
Newly-appointed Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio M. Balisacan said that by promoting inclusive growth, the Philippines will be able to meet its Millennium Development Goal to reduce poverty incidence to 16.6 percent by 2015.
The country's poverty incidence is at roughly 30 percent, which means about a third of the nearly 100 million Filipinos subsist on less than two U.S. dollars a day.
"We should be able to make the growth process more poverty reducing and that's the essence of inclusive growth," Balisacan said in a press briefing.
Balisacan said that by improving the poor households'access to basic services including health and education, the Philippine government will be able "to hasten the rate of poverty reduction."
He added that poverty reduction has been slow because of weak economic growth. He said that historically, the country's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth was only 4.5 percent, which is significantly low compared to the country's peers. This is the reason why it is necessary, he said, for the government to increase historical growth to 7 to 8 percent.
Balisacan said existing programs like the conditional cash transfer (CCT) the Public Private Partnership (PPP) initiative will be able ro bring down poverty incidence.
Balisacan said that CCTs can help poor families obtain access to health and education services while PPPs will help address infrastructure constraints which have been the cause of the country's weak economic growth in the past.
He said that with the private sector helping in the financing of various projects, the government frees up some of its limited resources. The government can then channel these resources to CCTs or other social development programs that can directly improve the access of poor Filipinos.
"What we are trying to do is to raise that potential growth path of the economy from 4.5 to 7 to 8. We can do that by addressing critical constraints to growth like infrastructure, human capital underdevelopment and so on," Balisacan said.
Balisacan, a poverty and agriculture development expert, formally assumed office this week. He replaced Cayetano Paderanga, who resigned due to health reasons.
Balisacan was dean of the School of Economics at the University of the Philippines. He obtained his Ph.D in Economics from the University of Hawaii.