WB ‘eager’ to support PH digitalization push

Published August 11, 2022, 1:48 PM

by Chino S. Leyco

The World Bank is eager on supporting the government’s bid to digitalize services and modernize the bureaucracy, the Department of Finance (DOF) said.

In a statement Thursday, Aug. 11, Finance Secretary Benjamin E. Diokno said the Washington-based multilateral institution was willing to extend support for further digitalizing the Philippines’ revenue agencies and modernizing civil service.

Last Aug. 1, World Bank Country Director Ndiame Diop made a courtesy call on Diokno where they discussed further alignment and expansion of cooperation between Manila and the World Bank based on President Marcos’ socioeconomic priorities.

The Marcos administration is implementing a comprehensive 8-point socioeconomic agenda that includes measures to optimize digitalization in improving tax administration and broadening financial inclusion.

Diokno said he aims to digitalize half of all retail payments and onboard 70 percent of the adult population to the formal financial system by 2023. This was a goal he set when he was governor of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP).

The World Bank is currently supporting the digitalization of the Bureau of Customs through a $88.28 million financing for the Philippine Customs Modernization Program.

The project focuses on transitioning from a largely manual and paper-based organization to a modernized Customs, achieving global standards and full modernization by 2024.

In the meeting, Diokno said that the government intends to pursue the civil service modernization project of the Civil Service Commission (CSC) which will be critical in the efforts to modernize the government and rightsize the bureaucracy.

Diop also noted the continued strong partnership between the World Bank and the Philippines, as evidenced by the bank’s increased support to the country.

As of March, the World Bank is the country’s third largest Official Development Assistance (ODA) partner, with loans and grants amounting to around $6.86 million or 23.38 percent of the country’s total ODA receipts.

The bank has supported 68 program and project loans of the government since 2021 or over the last three administrations amounting to a total of $14.9 billion.

Currently, the bank is supporting the implementation of 15 ongoing program and project loans in the areas of transport, rural development, disaster risk reduction and management, social protection, customs modernization, and Covid-19 response amounting to $4.96 billion.

Loans in the pipeline under the current administration include various programs and projects on health and nutrition, education, renewable energy, fisheries, transport, tourism, agriculture, and further reforms in the finance sector.

The DOF is also looking into tapping available support from the bank for natural disasters, including the recent strong earthquake that affected Northwestern Luzon.