NEDA Chief: Population Growth is Stunting PHL Economy

KIMBERLY JANE TAN, GMA NEWS August 6, 2012 2:01pm

Amid raging debates on the need for a Reproductive Health (RH) bill, the head of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) on Monday said the rapid population growth in the Philippines is putting a drag on Philippine economic performance.

“Clearly, yung rapid population growth constrains our ability to move to a higher, long-term growth,” NEDA director-general Arsenio Balisacan said in an interview with reporters after the Development Budget Coordination Committee (DBCC) briefed the Senate Monday on the 2013 budget.

He issued the statement after Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, Senators Panfilo Lacson, Ralph Recto, and Loren Legarda asked if population growth was a big factor in economic growth.

They asked what the Philippines could do to emulate the progress of its Asian neighbor Vietnam, which used to be behind the country in terms of economic growth.

Balisacan said the Philippine population is growing at 1.98 percent.

But the country needs to “break away” from the high contribution of young age population in the total population of the Philippines, according to the NEDA chief.

“We would want to see that the growth in the population is coming from the labor force… In other words, may demographic transition,” he said.

This is what the country’s neighbors in Asia have been doing, Balisacan noted.

“They were able to reduce their fertility rate such that their young age dependence portion of our population will decrease and in the future will lead to a faster increase in the labor force and that contributes to economic growth,” he said.

“Of course with a lower fertility rate, parents particularly poor parents would be able to provide better education, better health, better nutrition for their children… and that would make them highly productive adults when – 10 years to 15 years from now – they join the labor force,” he added.

Balisacan said the fertility rate in the country is at over 4 percent.

The senators’ inquiry came amid the pressing issue on the need to pass the RH bill, which allows families to adopt family planning techniques that are not necessarily sanctioned by the Catholic Church.

Balisacan did not categorically say that RH bill was the answer to population growth but that it will definitely help the common Filipino family.

“The intention of the bill is really to provide opportunities also for the poor people to manage their own family size and to be able to provide their children with better education through health and education investment,” he added. — VS, GMA News



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