Central Visayas has grown remarkably in the last six years, according to the country’s economic chief, but he said it can still do better with Cebu taking the lead.
Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia said Central Visayas, which is the fastest growing region in the country with an average annual growth rate of 7.5 percent between 2011 and 2016, only contributes 6 percent to the national Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
“With Central Visayas being home to Cebu, the Queen City of the South, it should be the region leading decentralization (of development), away from ‘Imperial Manila,’” Pernia said in a press briefing last week.
The official was in Cebu last Friday to attend the regional road show for the Philippine Development Plan (PDP) 2017-2022 and Central Visayas Regional Development Plan (RDP) 2017-2022.
In 2016, NCR continued to have the largest share of the country’s GDP at 36.6 percent, followed by Calabarzon with a 16.8 percent share, and Central Luzon with 9.5 percent.
Pernia, who serves as the director general of the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda), said there is a need to raise the contribution of Central Visayas to the “national pie” so people will have higher incomes.
From Cebu, he said development should spread to the rest of the Visayas and even throughout Mindanao.
“A lot of hope is pinned on Cebu to lead development for the regions in Visayas and Mindanao,” said Pernia.
He pointed out that the Central Visayas RDP 2017-2022 spells out strategies needed to boost development in the region and raising its contribution to the national GDP.
If the region’s performance in the last six years can be sustained and even improved on, its share to the national GDP would naturally grow relative to other regions, Pernia added.
While the macroeconomy has remained robust, there is still marked inequality in the regions and chronic poverty still exists, said Pernia.
That is why the PDP and RDP will focus on diverting economic growth from NCR, Calabarzon, and Central Luzon, which are the top three regions that make up two-thirds of the national GDP.
“This inequality is unacceptable and regional or rural development seeks to address this,” Pernia said.
7.5% growth target
With a 6.5-percent growth rate in 2016, the Philippines is poised to become the fastest growing economy in Asia over the medium term.
The government targets a 6.5 to 7.5 percent growth in 2017 and 7 to 8 percent growth from 2018 until 2022.
Pernia said he is optimistic of achieving targets over the medium term and urged all sectors to collaborate and participate actively in the effort to spur economic growth.
Central Visayas is projected to grow between 7.5 and 8 percent on average in the next six years on the back of robust industry and services sectors, Neda Central Visayas Director Efren Carreon said.
The region grew by an impressive 8.8 percent in 2016, ending the year with a P525-billion Gross Regional Domestic Product (GRDP) and sustaining its position as among the fastest growing regions in the country.
“Economic targets were achieved (in the last six years), even surpassed in some years, but the growth did not result in significant decline poverty incidence,” said Carreon.
Carreon said the Central Visayas RDP 2017-2022 targets to bring the employment rate in the region to 93.5 percent and poverty incidence down to 17.6 percent.
He said plans and projects under the plan aim to support agriculture, which contributes 5 percent to the GRDP, to ensure production and access to food supply.
“We want to expand economic opportunities for agriculture by investing in new, practical, and proven approaches to food production as well as provide needed machineries,” said Carreon.
It will also focus on manufacturing, tourism, IT-BPM, and creative industries, among others, to generate additional jobs in the next six years.
The RDP also lays down programs on poverty alleviation as well as initiatives to promote access to economic opportunities; health, education, and skills; as well as infrastructure projects to increase production and connectivity support.
While prospects remain bright for the region’s and country’s growth, the economic managers cited scenarios that may hinder progress in the next six years.
These include policies that contravene development strategies spelled out in the PDP and RDP as well as domestic and external uncertainties such as natural disasters, Brexit, and erratic policies of US President Donald Trump.