Though the Philippines has posted impressive GDP growth over the 2010s, the benefits of this increased wealth have been felt mostly by the country’s elite. For most other Filipinos, life continues to go on the way it had for generations.
Thankfully, the country’s leaders now have access to a wealth of workable solutions for improving economic equity. Here are a few things that are now being done to help achieve inclusive growth in the Philippines:
1. Develop Well-Planned, People-Centric Infrastructure
Thankfully, there’s much reason to be optimistic when it comes to Philippine infrastructure development. Following years of economic prosperity, hundreds of projects have finally been prioritized, including many that had been put on hold for decades. The previous administration’s Build! Build! Build! initiative, a collection of about 100 priority megaprojects, has also been set to continue through the present administration.
When these projects are completed, they are likely to be instrumental in bringing down the cost of business wherever they are located. This is likely to lead to increased employment and prosperity for a wider cross-section of Philippine society, particularly among the working class and those in the historically neglected countryside.
2. Increase Economic Opportunities in the Countryside
Most economic development in the Philippines is concentrated within Metro Manila and the surrounding Calabarzon and Central Luzon areas. This is largely due to the high density of infrastructure developments in these locations. The levels of higher economic development are reflected in the overall higher quality of life attainable in these areas.
However, this concentrated development does come at a cost. Much of the countryside remains underdeveloped due to the more immediate benefits of concentrating development funding in Metro Manila. Save for a few key provincial cities like Cebu, Iloilo, and Davao, the standard of living remains comparatively low throughout the country
By taking a longer view of economic development, Philippine policymakers could ensure more inclusive economic growth. Private developers are already betting big on countryside development, with integrated economic centers now boosting local economies and creating thousands of jobs in historically neglected areas.
3. Further Develop Water Infrastructure
The lack of dependable water supplies has been a constant hindrance to wider economic development throughout the Philippines. Access to safe and dependable sources of water is important not just for people, but for businesses as well.
Thankfully, several new water infrastructure projects are already contributing to local economies. With better access to clean water, Filipinos in the countryside and underserved urban areas can enjoy better health as well as additional economic opportunities.
4. Prevent Environmental Degradation
The Philippines is no stranger to environmental destruction. Centuries of resource extraction and unregulated urbanization have led to the devastation of many of the country’s natural features. Unfortunately, the degradation of the environment has had a direct impact on Filipinos in the countryside, serving to further reduce their economic opportunities.
Things may be changing for the better. Government and industry policymakers are starting to try alternative business models and frameworks that prevent unnecessary environmental destruction. With forests and water features preserved, Filipinos in the countryside can engage in ecotourism or sustainable forms of resource extraction indefinitely.
5. Stimulate the Digital Economy
The term “digital economy” is somewhat misleading, as digital services are now integral to the Philippine economy as a whole. However, what many urban Filipinos do not realize is that access to the internet is still limited in much of the country, particularly in the countryside and in lower-income urban areas. This lack of connectivity has effectively shut out millions of Filipinos from educational, employment, and entrepreneurial opportunities.
The country’s current slate of digital infrastructure projects is promising to open a world of opportunities for Filipinos in the periphery. With the rollout of the common tower policy and the introduction of low-cost telecommunications technologies, the barrier to serving all Filipinos with high-speed internet is dropping rapidly.
6. Leverage Conditional Cash Transfers
While highly controversial, there is some data to support conditional cash transfers (CCTs) and similar programs that guarantee unconditional cash transfers or a universal basic income (UBI).
According to the World Bank, these programs help the poorest of the poor from being permanently mired in poverty, allowing them to get jobs later on. These programs may also save the public coffers in the long term, as there will be fewer people dependent on government aid for healthcare and other services.
While the Philippines may not be ready for a true UBI program just yet, the smart application of conditional cash transfers can empower ambitious lower-income Filipinos and ultimately allow them to add value back to the economy. The added value, in turn, could be used to help improve the lives of all other Filipinos.
Though the Philippines is years away from achieving an economically equitable society, there is much reason to be optimistic. Steps are now being taken to reverse decades of economic injustice. Thanks to the hard work of Filipinos and conscientious leaders in the public and private sectors, the Philippines continues to inch slowly towards a more just economic future.