UA&P experts suggest anti-poverty measures, Cabinet bets

UA&P experts suggest anti-poverty measures, Cabinet bets

by UA&P News Desk on May 20, 2010 - 9:48 am

Economic and agriculture experts at the University of Asia and the Pacific (UA&P) welcomed the results of the recent elections and gave “unsolicited advice” to the incoming government in a press briefing last May 17.

Renowned economist Dr. Bernardo M. Villegas is confident about attaining a 5-7 percent economic growth in the next few months, following the victory of president-apparent Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III. He added that, if the new government would increase GDP to 7-9 percent annually, poverty eradication would be underway by the end of Aquino’s term. But to achieve such growth, fighting corruption and investing heavily on agriculture would prove crucial, he said.

UA&P-based Center for Food and Agri Business Executive Director Rolando agreed with Villegas, saying that today’s 30 percent poverty incidence would be halved by 2016 if the targeted annual growth rate is reached.

“We cannot fully eradicate poverty,” Dr. Villegas clarified, “but I am sure there will be very visible improvements. This is within the reach of the new Aquino administration.”

Delving into details, Dr. Villegas said the new government should work on getting the P400 billion lost to tax evasion and corruption. He said those funds would go far when invested in projects such as high-quality farm-to-market roads.

Dr. Dy suggested that investments should be made to aid the poor, 20 million of whom live in rural areas and depend on agriculture for their livelihood. Striking a contrast, Dr. Villegas pointed out that the poor in Payatas are “14 times richer than the poor in rural areas.”

Secretaries and a “super” secretary

Dr. Villegas also recommended several persons to Sen. Aquino’s Cabinet: former national treasurer Omar Cruz for Finance secretary, former Finance undersecretary Milwida Guevara for Education secretary, former Finance secretary Cesar Purisima as Trade secretary, and former Naga City Mayor Jesse Robredo for Interior and Local Government secretary. He also suggested the retention of Ace Durano as Tourism secretary.

He said Aquino’s Cabinet should be composed of people below 60 years old. “We should not have old fogies like me or other people there. If at all, we should be mentors, who will be very willing to mentor the people who will be appointed,” he added.

Dr. Dy, on the other hand, suggested the return of Senen Bacani as Agriculture secretary. According to him, while Bacani is beyond Villegas’ age requirement, the former secretary who served in the late Corazon Aquino’s presidency has the “integrity, intelligence, energy, and track record. But definitely he can hire young people in the operations group.”

Dr. Villegas also remarked that the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) is a “superfluous” office. He suggested that a “super” secretary should oversee the country’s economic activities, deeming Sen. Manuel “Mar” Roxas III suitable for the post. NEDA, according to Dr. Dy, can be converted into a corporate planning office of the proposed super-minister.

Dr. Villegas also recommended Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay to head the Department of Social Welfare and Development, whether or not he wins the vice-presidency. Binay’s social welfare programs, especially for Makati’s poor, are testament to his capability to head the department, he said. #

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