NEDA Head Focused On Helping The Poor
The new acting head of the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) erstwhile Department of Finance Undersecretary Kendrick Chua has this focus for the country: “Making growth work for the poor.”
That happened to be the title of a World Bank report on the Philippines that he prepared in January 2015 as then senior economist of the multilateral agency where he honed his skill in development economics.
Poring over the document, dubbed the Philippine Economic Update, The Financial District read through an all-encompassing template on how the country can achieve growth and be in the company of Malaysia and South Korea.
The two Asian countries, both classified with high income status, were cited by Chua in a pitch for the passage of the TRAIN law which mirrored the recommendations that the World Bank group prepared for the Philippines.
He said the Philippines can transition into a high income status nation with the passage of the said law which he championed and which mirrored his treatise on how the country can achieve growth and eradicate poverty.
The proposed TRAIN bill at that time was getting lots of flak supposedly for being anti-poor and he was deemed aggressive in pushing for it.
Defending the government aggressiveness, Chua said that this is needed so that the Philippines can “eradicate poverty in this generation” and that the tax reform law is not really meant to address the deficit nor raise revenues.
The proposed law , he said, is “anti-poverty, anti-inequality, and (means) high inclusive growth.”
Interestingly these were the theses that Chua made in that WB report that defined him.
He characteristically pointed to the inequalities in the tax system where the rich , while making more money, are actually paying less taxes while the small biz owners are left to preparing cumbersome tax payments and paying more.
In a take on poverty, Chua said that "the Philippines needs to accelerate reforms that can translate higher growth into more inclusive growth—the type that creates more and better jobs—so that poverty can be reduced massively and prosperity shared by more people."
“Sustaining high growth and making it more inclusive can help the government achieve its 18 to 20 percent poverty reduction targets as he posited “that if the growth elasticity of poverty remains high, poverty can be eradicated within a single generation.”
Chua’s mantra revolves around eradicating poverty in the country, a topic that he always brought out in his interviews. And here he has the template for the Philippines’ economic growth trajectory.
He batted for competition, analyzing the way there were a low number of players for various sectors, echoing a take of The Financial District on the “infant status regime “ that characterized the industries in the country before.
The WB paper also touched on the need for infrastructure development outside of Imperial Manila, a restrictive investment regime , such as on land ownership, that results in low foreign direct investments.
There were several strategic flaws that the WB report took cognizance of and with that, the country can look forward to having a fresh look at the country’s growth prospects even in this era of the Covid 19 pandemic.