MANILA, JULY 15, 2013
(PHILSTAR) Outgoing Albay 1st District Rep. Edcel Lagman wants an additional pork barrel worth P30 million for each of the 292 members of the House of Representatives.

The former minority floor leader said "ballooning expenditures" and the "rapid growth" of their constituents is one of the main reasons of his proposal to increase the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) of congressmen.

“We need an additional PDAF for every congressman to address health and welfare of our constituents,” Lagman said in an interview with the state news agency.

But the veteran lawmaker admits that his proposal will trigger mixed reactions from his fellow lawmakers as well as from the public.

“Violent reactions expected. I just proposed the increase because I think it is needed,” said Lagman the former budget secretary of then President Cory Aquino.

The PDAF, which is the official name of the congressional pork barrel, annually allocates P200 million for each senator and P70 million for each member of the House of Representatives.

The existing PDAF budget in the 2013 General Appropriations Act is reportedly pegged at P20.44 billion. The amount will increase by P8.76 billion if Lagman's proposal will be carried out.

Criticisms have been hurled against the existence of the PDAF, which has been a subject of corruption allegations.

Earlier this year, Lagman defended the existence of the PDAF against the critics of the congressional pork barrel, saying it is not graft-ridden.

Related story: Lagman: ‘Pork’ not graft-ridden

He claimed that no one has been prosecuted, much more convicted, of abusing the utilization of the PDAF, except for a former congressman indicted before the Sandiganbayan.

“Concededly, the PDAF is not a perfect allocation. And legislators are not perfect functionaries. However, its attendant imperfections do not justify the abolition or reduction of the PDAF, either of which would be counterproductive,” Lagman said.


Column: Growth, poverty unmarried Published on Thursday, 11 July 2013 00:00 Written by PAUL ICAMINA .

Philippines Some two-thirds of the country’s domestic output is concentrated in three regions in Luzon, namely Metro Manila, Southern and Central Luzon which Balisacan said led to high income inequality. “Inequality in incomes and opportunities can weaken the power of economic growth as a key strategic vehicle for eliminating acute poverty” he said. .

Amid impressive economic growth, poverty and inequality remain high, the country’s top economy guru said yesterday.

“Poverty has not changed much in recent years,” said Dr. Arsenio M. Balisacan, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary and Director-General, National Economic and Development Authority.

Based on the official poverty lines, the proportion of the population deemed poor decreased only slightly from 28.8 percent in 2006 to 27.9 percent in 2012, he told the 35th Annual Scientific Meeting National Academy of Science and Technology

The big challenge, he said, is ensuring that the growth process is inclusive. “By this, we mean that a lot more are able to participate in the growth process, but all benefit from the growth, particularly the poor.”

Balisacan gave an overview of the country’s recent socioeconomic performance and elaborated on the development imperatives for the second half of the Aquino administration.

The lessons in the past three years is that good governance is effective but while economic growth is necessary, it is not sufficient for poverty reduction, he said.

“Our economy has grown remarkably over the past couple of years,” he said. “This is particularly impressive given that m uch of the rest of world are either in crisis or slowly recovering from crisis.”

The latest data on the performance of the Philippine economy is encouraging, he said, pointing to “a very good growth of 7.8 percent for the first quarter of 2013 after a better than expected full year growth of 6.8 percent in 2012.

Industry also led the pace of economic expansion, growing at 10.9 percent, with manufacturing, the sector’s biggest component, growing at an impressive rate of 9.7 percent despite the 8.4 percent drop in our goods exports.

The main contributors to the strong growth were manufactures of food, household appliances, communication equipment and apparatus, chemical products, basic metals, machinery and other equipment and transport equipment.

The next highest contributor to industry’s growth is construction, whose 32.5 percent strong growth indicates a good positioning towards an industry-led economy.

However, he observed, about 62 percent of the country’s domestic output is concentrated in three regions in Luzon, namely Metro Manila, Southern and Central Luzon.

“The huge disparity in development between the regions is also reflected in high income inequality,” he pointed out. “Inequality in incomes and opportunities can weaken the power of economic growth as a key strategic vehicle for eliminating acute poverty.

“Rising inequality can also undermine political and social stability, which is a necessary condition for sustainable development and prosperity.”

The industry sector, particularly manufacturing, has a crucial role to play in rapid and inclusive growth, Balisacan said, adding its stagnation and decline needs to be reversed.

“The Philippines had relatively high manufacturing-to-GDP ratio in the 1980s but since then other Asian countries have outpaced the country,” he said.

From about 39 percent of GDP in the 1980s, Philippine industry fell to 33 percent in 2010-2012. This is a sharp contrast to Thailand, whose industry-to GDP ratio peaked 44 percent in 2010-2012 from 30 percent in the 1980s.

Employment levels in manufacturing have declined over the past two decades, which reflects what Balisacan called “the anemic state of Philippine industry.”

As reflected in the April 2013 Labor Force Survey, about 53 percent of the employed are in services, 31 percent in agriculture, and 16 percent in industry. Manufacturing accounted for only about 8 percent of the total employed.

This, he said, even when there is strong evidence that a thriving manufacturing sector reduces poverty.

“Even assuming an annual growth of 7 percent or higher, manufacturing can only absorb a small proportion of less-educated workers and as such complementing policies and programs that will boost productivity in agriculture, where a lot of the poor are, need to be implemented as well.”

“To sustain our rapid growth, we need to transform the structure of our economy from one that is largely consumption-driven, fuelled by remittances, to one that is increasingly investment-led and employment-oriented,” he said.

The industry sector has great potential to boost inclusive growth, Balisacan said, citing the results of the April 2013 Labor Force Survey showing that while employment in agriculture fell by about 624,000 workers, employment in the industry sector grew by 3.8 percent or 224,000 from April 2012 to April 2013.

The quality of employment in the industry sector also improved, he said, with the number of persons working 40 hours and over per week increasing about 79 percent in April 2013, from 64 percent in April 2012.

This trend is reflected in the increasing percentage of wage and salary workers, which rose to about 58 percent in April 2013 from 56 percent in April 2012.

“The wage and salary worker category is often seen as an indicator of the quality of employment,” he explained. “So when that category is rising in relative terms, it suggests that the quality of employment in the country is also improving.”

Still, Balisacan observed that manufactured exports are largely concentrated in three product groups, namely electronics, garments, and machinery and transport equipment.

High-technology exports, particularly electronics, machinery and transport equipment, accounted for about 46 percent of manufactured exports in 2011.

Many of these exports are low value products that are dependent on imported inputs, and have weak forward and backward linkages with other industries, he said.

“Our industrial structure, as measured by firm size or number of workers, has also remained hollow, with a very small proportion of small and medium enterprises,” he said.

Philippine investment in R&D has stayed at a level of around 0.11 to 0.14 percent of GDP, which is among the lowest in Asia, Balisacan pointed out.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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