USAID vows to double down assistance to PH in 5 years

Published October 30, 2020, 6:30 AM

by Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat

The US government through the US Agency for International Development (USAID), the federal-funded agency responsible for administration of all foreign funds for developmental programs, has vowed to double down its assistance to the Philippines over the next five years.

USAID Mission Director to the Philippines PH Lawrence Hardy II in a speech at the Indo Pacific Business Forum revealed the US government’s commitment to further expand its developmental assistance  to the Philippines.

“I’m very pleased to share with you today that USAID will double down to provide assistance to not only increase digital platforms in the Philippines, but also expand our systems in this space over the coming five years,” said Hardy.

He did not mention any amount but the USAID website stated that over the past 20 years, the United States has provided nearly P228.8 billion ($4.5 billion) in total assistance to advance the country’s development goals.

In September this year, the US government through USAID and the Philippine Department of Finance (DOF) signed a new, five-year bilateral assistance agreement valued at more than P10.5 billion ($213 million) to boost the country’s economic development and growth.

In committing to double down its development assistance to the country, Hardy noted the rapidly changing landscape that needs continued collaboration with the government and the private sector in infrastructure development, government initiatives, and cyber security protection.

“USAID will also provide greater engagement of small and medium sized enterprises and e commerce, as well as continue pursuing digital interventions in our work, involving health, education, governance and of course the environment,” he said.

 Largely, the USAID official noted of the agency’s initiatives to assist the country’s transition to digital technology particularly payments through various platforms.

He cited a report which revealed the dramatic increase in digital payment transactions. This translates to a quantum leap of digital payments from $6 billion in 2013 to $24 billion in 2018.

Since 2013 USAID has also been using information technology to support the Bureau of International Revenue tax administration to improve business processes and to automate tax systems.     

Over the past five years, he said, the country saw a 13-fold increase in tax payers filing their taxes online using updated electronic system for tax collection. Today, he said, more than 85 percent of taxes are paid electronically, via commercial banks, all payments. There are also other online payment portals.

Alongside the many other tax policy and tax administration reforms, he said, these have boosted tax revenues by 56 percent, enabling the Philippine government to conceptualize and implement new projects that benefit the Filipino people.

During the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, the US government also created  digital platforms to help Filipino farmers, as well as transport their produce to market.

This addressed urgent food security needs in Metro Manila, as well as in the provinces. To complete this effort, USAID supported the National Economic and Development Authority to establish a supply chain analytics dashboard to inform government agencies industry associations of ground level issues, impeding the flow of goods and inputs.

For the health sector, the USAID has also partnered with the Philippine government and the private sector as well as civil society to be at the forefront of digital transformation in the health sector.

The USAID has also assisted the Department of Education to develop an e-aesources platform that has become the backbone of the Philippines government’s learning continuity plan amid the global pandemic.

“We facilitate the creation of online platforms that help streamline the process for business registration construction permitting access to land information, reducing cost and waiting times for the public. We have also supported various initiatives to promote smart cities, enable technological advancements to improve service delivery,” he said.

Currently, USAID is working with the Anti Red Tape Authority, the Department of Information and Communications Technology and improving internet connectivity in several urban centers.

“These are just some of our recent examples of support for the Philippines, digital transformation. Many of these projects were done in partnership with the private sector, including both American and Filipino technology competence,” he said.

Since 1946, the United States has helped the Philippines to develop the country’s infrastructure, provide training and technical assistance, increase agricultural productivity and economic growth, promote sustainable environmental management, improve health and nutrition and foster democracy and decentralization.

USAID’s current strategy seeks to accelerate and make economic growth more inclusive through improved competitiveness and increased infrastructure services; improved fiscal management and revenue administration; strengthened governance, rule of law, anti-corruption efforts and electoral processes; improved human rights protection and anti-trafficking efforts; improved family health, reduced geographic disparities in health services and increased access to water and sanitation; increased access to quality basic education; improved environmental management; and increased effectiveness of disaster preparedness and relief programs. The Mindanao focus is also retained.