by: Ferdinand Blanco, Norconsult Mgt. Services (Phils.), Inc.

The first PNBC Luncheon for 2019 held last 6 February 2019 was graced by the presence of an economics expert from the Asian Development Bank (ADB).  Dr. Kelly Bird, ADB’s Country Director for the Philippines, discussed about the Economic Forecast for the Philippines.  Dr. Kelly, who hails from New Zealand, has been with ADB for 13 years handling various economic development programs all over Asia. Following were the highlights of his presentation:

  • Compared to the Philippines’ neighboring countries, poverty and income inequality in the Philippines remain high which is mostly wrought by huge infrastructure deficit.  The country’s regions are still mostly isolated from each other impeding income opportunities and constraining economic growth.  Based on the present government’s Build-Build-Build Program, the infrastructure gap needs an initial estimated investment of $160 to $180 billion by 2022
  • There is also a wide income disparity among regions.  The 20 poorest provinces located in Mindanao and the Visayas are characterized by having poverty rates between 40% and 72% of their populations.  These regions are crying out loud for infrastructure and private investments worsened by poor quality public services, low skills trap and poor governance.  They are also vulnerable both to natural hazards and intermittent armed conflict.
  • It was noted that in other Asian countries teenage pregnancies are dropping but in the Philippines they are increasing at a steady rate.
  • One in four youth are not employed and only about 31% of adults have an account at a bank.

To help address the above problems, ADB is lending a hand in promoting local economic development by implementing programs aimed at strengthening local public expenditure management, mobilizing municipal finance and improving local business climate. They also have programs and projects that promote human development, financial inclusion, social protection and innovation.

ADB has a loan portfolio of about $1.55 billion for various projects in Mindanao such as improving growth corridors, recovery and rehabilitation of Marawi, integrated flood risk management project, livable cities initiative project, irrigation and agro-business development.

Several transport projects in Metro Manila and environs are also slated for ADB financing like the Laguna Lakeshore Expressway, the 29-kilometer bridge connecting Bataan and Cavite, Malolos-Clark Railway, South Commuter Rail, among others.