By Chino S. Leyco
The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) said yesterday that the government must double its effort to address the regional development gaps as disparities or inequality in terms income across the country widened.
In a statement, Socioeconomic Planning Undersecretary Adoracion M. Navarro said that NEDA’s estimates showed regional disparities or inequality in income per capita across the Philippine regions widened over time due to faster population expansion in many areas.
Based on the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) data, 12 regions exceeded the nationwide average economic growth rate of 6.2 percent last year with Bicol posting the highest expansion of 8.9 percent, followed by Davao and MIMAROPA (Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan) both at 8.6 percent.
According to NEDA, public construction, which rose 70 percent last year, propelled growth in Bicol. This includes the construction and improvement of access roads to tourism areas, widening of inter-regional and inter-provincial roads, and other public works.
Private construction activities also went up with the completion of various malls and hotels in major city centers, NEDA said.
Meanwhile, the regions of Caraga, Cagayan Valley and the National Capital Region posted the lowest growth rates of 3.2 percent, 3.3 percent, and 4.8 percent, respectively.
The slowdown in mining and quarrying, wood-based manufacturing, construction, and transportation, storage, and communication, contributed to the deceleration of Caraga’s economic growth. In Cagayan Valley, its vulnerability to natural calamities was a major hurdle to growth.
Meanwhile, in Metro Manila, wholesale and retail trade supported its growth but was tempered by the slight decline in the manufacturing sector.
“Using 2009 to 2018 data from the PSA, NEDA estimated that the dispersion of regional real per capita gross domestic product [GDP] increased during the period,” the agency said.
“As widening disparities may be more a result of high rate of population growth in some regions than poor economic performance per se, stakeholders especially local government units must also support the government’s family planning and reproductive health program,” Navarro said.
The NEDA official, however, noted that no region was consistently the highest nor the lowest in the past three years. Eastern Visayas had the highest growth rate in 2016, CAR in 2017, and Bicol in 2018.
“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,” Navarro said.
“All stakeholders must also help the government in expediently implementing the “Build, Build, Build” program, which will boost regional growth and reduce the gaps across the regions,” she added.
Navarro also stressed that since the regions with very low GRDP per capita are also the regions that have large agricultural bases, the government has to give greater focus on improving the productivity of the agriculture and fisheries sector in the regions.
“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 said.