Fast-tracked infra projects to reduce regional income gaps

MANILA – The government is fast-tracking the implementation of infrastructure projects to boost regional growth and reduce the widening gaps across the regions, the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) said Thursday.

“The government has to continually increase its efforts in pushing for regional and rural development. We need to improve connectivity across regions and enhance the efficiency of transport, communications, and overall logistics network. Poor regions must catch-up fast,” NEDA officer-in-charge and undersecretary Adoracion Navarro said during the “#AskNEDA” media briefing.

Navarro cited the updated Public Investment Program (PIP), which indicated a total of 9,816 priority programs, activities and projects (PAPs) amounting to P10.975 trillion for the period 2017-2022.

“(Of the total) 314 interregional and 8,684 regions-specific PAPs amounting to P1.72 trillion and P2.72 trillion, respectively, are programmed to be distributed across the regions. PAPs with nationwide scope have the largest share,” she said.

Navarro noted that public investment to gross regional domestic product (GRDP) ratio of all the regions is higher than the national average, particularly in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) at 63.89 percent.

“The investment to GRDP ratio is higher than the national average at 10.84 percent. This shows our greater resolve to pour in investments (particularly) to the Mindanao regions,” she added.

NEDA director Violeta Corpus said “we are seeing the completion of all the 75 priority projects to really boost connectivity across regions and the entire nation and for the urban centers like Manila, Davao will have their own sets of transportation infrastructure projects.”

Apart from the speedy implementation of the “Build, Build, Build” program, Navarro also underscored the need to grow the country’s manufacturing sector and improve agricultural productivity to address regional development gaps.

“If we are to link the agriculture sector with the manufacturing sector, agri-businesses, we will be able to help propel the growth of the agriculture sector while also growing the manufacturing sector,” she said.

“We can do that not only through the incentives being mentioned by the DTI (Department of Trade and Industry) but also by improving the connectivity between the production sector, the rural areas producing agricultural commodities, and also the markets, the town centers, the poblacions wherein the manufactured goods are being sold. Sometimes, these town centers also play host to manufacturing firms. Connectivity has a very important role to play,” she added.

Using the 2009 to 2018 data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), NEDA estimated that the dispersion of regional real per capita gross domestic product (GDP) increased during the said period.

“We found that the dispersion of regional real per capita GDP levels has increased over time,” Navarro said. “Based on the data we have examined, in some cases, the population growth rate is high and the economic growth rate was not able to outpace the population growth rate.”

To squarely address this problem, she said that stakeholders, especially local government units, must support the government’s family planning and reproductive health program.

The NEDA official further said the government needs to give greater focus on improving the productivity of the agriculture and fisheries sector in the regions, as those with very low GRDP per capita are also the regions that have large agricultural bases.

“We have to integrate small farmers and fisherfolk into larger business enterprises. This is apart from other strategies like farm diversification, which will help farmers venture into commodities with higher value and market potential,” Navarro added. (PNA)


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