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Hontiveros: Tap housing, agriculture and fisheries as new "economic boosters" in 2020 budget



Akbayan Senator Risa Hontiveros today urged the country's top economic managers to tap other potential drivers of the national economy as the country's growth strategy falters. She issued the statement coinciding with the development budget coordinating committee's (DBCC) presentation before the Senate as part of the deliberations on the proposed 2020 National Budget.

"The economic managers expect manufacturing, the BPO sector, foreign investments and public construction to power the growth momentum. But the impression that I got from their presentations is that momentum is being lost everyday, and there appears to be no quick and easy solutions at hand for these sectors," Hontiveros explained.

"Kailangan natin ng mga bagong 'economic boosters' para palakasin ang ating ekonomiya. Ang ilan dito ay ang agrikultura, housing, fisheries, food manufacturing at pati tourism. Bukod sa pagpapalakas ng ekonomiya, tutugunan din ng mga ito ang mga isyu gaya ng food security, housing backlog, climate risks at employment," Hontiveros said.

The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) reported that in May 2019, the food manufacturing sub-sector's volume of production index (VoPI) declined by 14.0 percent while its value of production index (VaPI) decreased by 17.7 percent. It also said that the country's business processing and outsourcing (BPO) industry is being adversely affected by the rise of artificial intelligence.

Hontiveros said that the new economic boosters she enumerated are all intensive in the use of underutilized resources that the poor have in abundance - land, labor and the natural endowments of the countryside. She said that this will make growth more equitable, inclusive, sustained and robust in the face of trade war-related risks, technological risks faced by workers in the BPO sector and absorptive capacity risks in the public construction sector.

"The housing sector is particularly worth exploring given its high 'multiplier effect,' as larger investments in housing translate into greater economic activity in other industries such as construction, labor, and even retail. The fact that our current budget for housing programs plummetted after 2016 and is at an all-time-low defies logic and must be rectified next year," Hontiveros said.

Hontiveros also urged the government to boost funding for the agricultural sector and help expand its contribution to the national economy by addressing land titling problems, supporting crop diversification by farmers and building more farm-to-market roads and systems. She said that the food manufacturing sector has a lot of room for growth as seen in the experience of Thailand, but it relies on a robust agriculture and fisheries sector.

The Senator also suggested that major investments and funding should be devoted to the fisheries sector, citing Indonesia's gains in managing marine resources, which allowed it to not only reduce illegal fishing, but also grow its fishing industry at a rate twice that of its national economic growth.

"I am willing to work closely with the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), NEDA and the rest of the country's economic managers in making sure that the 2020 budget will be responsive to the potential of these sectors as new economic boosters," Hontiveros said.

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