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PHL Nears Social and Economic Goals

I take delight in two recent reports showing the Philippines improving its 2019 global competitiveness ranking and making substantial progress in the so-called Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs.


The first report, made by Switzerland-based International Institute for Management Development, ranked the Philippines as the 46th-most competitive among 63 economies in the world this year, up by four notches from its 2018 ranking of 50th, despite the external challenges.


The ranking, based on economic indicators and results of an opinion survey, is an indication of the long-term health of an economy and its ability to support businesses to achieve sustainable growth, create jobs and improve the welfare of its people.


Data from the World Bank show that in 2018, the Philippines posted a gross domestic product of $330.8 billion in nominal terms with a growth of 6.2 percent from the previous year. The country also registered a GDP per-capita income of $3,104 in nominal terms and $8,936 in terms of purchasing power parity. PPP measures other economic variables aside from exchange rate to reflect productivity and 
standards of living.


It said the Philippines posted improvements in all four indicators measured in the report, such as economic performance (up 12 notches from 50th to 38th); government efficiency (up three notches from 44th to 41st); business efficiency, (up six notches from 38th to 32nd); and infrastructure, (up one notch from 60th to 59th).


However, the Philippines received low rankings on indicators such as basic infrastructure (61st), health and environment (56th), education (58th), scientific infrastructure (59th), business legislation (54th) and international trade (54th).


I confidently believe that with the aggressive infrastructure buildup following the enactment of the 2019 national government budget, the country’s score on basic infrastructure will significantly improve in the years ahead.


While the Philippines ranked behind other Southeast Asian economies such as Singapore (first), Malaysia (22nd), Thailand (25th) and Indonesia (32nd), I expect our country to join the upper half of the list within the next few years on the back of the unprecedented infrastructure spending that the Duterte administration is undertaking.


The “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure program holds the key to unlocking the full potential of the Philippine economy. In 2019 alone, the government hopes to disburse a total of P1 trillion for infrastructure projects.


I share Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez’s enthusiasm when he said the improvement in the country’s competitiveness ranking was a precursor to more positive results from other competitiveness surveys. Aside from IMD, the World Economic Forum releases a separate Global Competitiveness Report, and I believe that it will also show a dramatic improvement in the Philippines’s ranking.


Improving the country’s competitiveness and ease of doing business are among the top priorities of the government. This highlights the Duterte administration’s business-friendly policy that enables companies and enterprises to create quality jobs for the people.


On the socioeconomic side, I welcome the results of the Philippines 2019 Voluntary National Review Report on the SDGs, which shows that the Philippines is making headway in achieving sustainable development goals, especially in terms of increasing labor productivity and reducing income equality.


SDGs refer to the 17 global goals set by the United Nations for the year 2030, such as ending poverty and hunger, improving the welfare of the people in terms of health, education, income and decent work, achieving gender equality, reducing income inequality, protecting the environment, building sustainable communities, achieving peace and justice, among others.


Dr. Jose Ramon Albert, a senior research fellow of state think tank Philippine Institute for Development Studies, said the country’s labor productivity grew 8.4 percent in 2017, while the unemployment rate eased to 5.7 percent last year—one of the lowest since 2005.


There were also indications that income inequality in the Philippines had been narrowing. The report shows while the average per-capita income increased 1.7 percent annually from 2006 to 2015, the income of the bottom 40 percent rose faster at 2.2 percent in the same period.


Challenges still remain, though, including the fact that the average per-capita income of the National Capital Region is much higher than that of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, the poorest area in the country.


More work remains to be done to achieve the 17 SDGs in the Philippines, but the Duterte administration’s focus on helping the poor through social protection, expanding the economy, generating jobs and livelihood programs, building infrastructures and improving the business climate have already borne substantial fruits.


Given the government’s firm resolve to grow the economy and improve the welfare of the Filipino people, I am confident we will continue making substantial gains in the global competitiveness rankings and sustainable development goals in the coming years.