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September 27, 2017

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The Philippines' NEDA has a unique opportunity to 'restart' the economy

Almost two years after the Philippines got a fresh "restart" with the election of President Benigno Aquino III, the chief executive has himself pressed the restart button for the economy with the appointment of a new head of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA).

As the new economic planning secretary, Arsenio Balisacan takes over from the intelligent and affable (but apparently too cautious) Cayetano Paderanga Jr., who oversaw the early implementation of the Aquino administration's cornerstone economic policy, the Public-Private Partnership program.

The PPP program during these past two years is hardly anything to be proud of, having wasted crucial time that could have been used to help pull more people out of poverty and push the Philippines higher up the ladder of economic development.

But while some quarters would conveniently lay the blame for PPP's mis-start at the doorstep of NEDA, the responsibility goes far beyond the agency and higher up.

Going forward, however, the NEDA under Balisacan has a unique opportunity to play a role in restarting the stalled PPP program and ensuring that the Aquino administration would leave a more well-rounded legacy after 2016, as opposed to the lopsided one it has been molding so far.

Balisacan's specialty in the field of economics is the area of poverty alleviation, and his early pronouncements on the issue jibe perfectly with those of the administration to create inclusive growth that will benefit the majority of Filipinos. (At his first press conference as NEDA chief, Balisacan said: "I share the view of our President that we need to permanently break away from this pattern of growth [i.e., weak capacity to transform growth into poverty reduction], making development more inclusive, ensuring that it benefits everyone, especially the poor and the highly vulnerable groups in our society.")

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