World Bank in the Philippines

By Joann Villanueva

World Bank Group President Robert B. Zoellick on Thursday guaranteed his strong support to the Aquino administration’s good governance program, noting that would ensure the continued growth of the domestic economy.

In a briefing during the second day of his visit to the country, Zoellick said his visit helped him “better understand the importance of President (Benigno) Aquino’s (III) program for good governance and the government’s priorities to improve the business climate, develop infrastructure, increase investments in health and education, and protect the most vulnerable people.”

“There are, and no doubt, will be more challenges along the way. It’s a tough business to fight corruption,” he said.

Relatively, another challenge that is hard to fight is the impact of natural disaster “that is beyond our control”, he said.

Zoellick said due to the ravages that recent typhoons had in the country, the WB has opened a US$ 500 million credit line for the country “that can be drawn on immediately in the event of a major natural disaster.”

“And I am pleased to announce a US$ 2-million grant which will help the Philippines gain access to global best practices in disaster risk reduction,” he said.

The multilateral lender is also “actively” coordinating with the government to boost the agriculture sector to make it, along with the fisheries sector, “more climate-resilient,” he said.

Zoellick also vowed support, through WB’s private sector arm –International Finance Corporation (IFC)– to the government’s public private partnership (PPP) initiative.

He said he was impressed on how the domestic economy proved its resilience during the recent global economic turmoil on account of strong financial and trade resources as well as economic fundamentals.

He cited that economic downturns hit the poor the most, thus, the government’s conditional cash transfer (CCT) program is one of the safety nets that cushioned the impact of the adverse development overseas to poor Filipinos.

The WB has been supporting the government’s Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps), being implemented by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), and has to date provided US$ 405 million for this.

A research by the WB and the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) showed that the Philippines’ CCT program has increased people’s annual incomes by 12.6 percent on average and resulted in the drop in poverty incidence by about six percentage points.

The 4Ps is expected to cover 2.3 million household or almost 62 percent of poor Filipinos by the end of this year.

Zoellick said the CCT program here “shows that good governance matters to help ensure that the right people get the right benefit at the right time, in the right way.”

“At the World Bank, we believe that every country should have a targeted, effective, efficient social safety net program that doesn’t bust the budget -because certain events, whether arising from Europe, the Americas, or Asia – can compromise the poor,” he stressed, citing that “the poor need a partner too.”

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