Events - 12.05.2016 - 00:00 

Growth: A Blessing for the Philippines?

How essential is economic growth to the wellbeing of Filipino society? What opportunities for a better future does the country offer its people? These were some of the questions asked by BBC news presenter Stephen Sackur in a discussion with the finance minister of the Philippines, Cesar Purisima.

13 May 2016. The Philippines saw growth of almost 6% in 2015. It is hardly surprising that the finance minister of the Philippines regards the increase in economic performance as an indicator of the success of development in his country, Sackur said in his opening remarks at the podium discussion.

Tourism and IT as drivers of employment

Purisima emphasised the benefits of the current form of government, which made economic growth possible in the first place. The political system emulates the style of democracy in the USA and new technologies have had a positive impact on the economy as a driver of employment. The IT industry alone created approximately 1.3 million jobs in the last year. Tourism is also growing continuously, he said, by nearly 15% a year. Nevertheless, too many Filipinos still had to leave the country to find better-paying work. This trend should be countered with good education and investment.

Sackur asked his podium guest why there are still social tensions in Filipino society, despite free elections and a booming economy, and how the chasm between the rich and the poor can be overcome. Purisima replied that it is important in the first place to give the population better prospects for the future, through good education and jobs. He considered economic prosperity, access to information about new technologies and improved infrastructure in the country to be major factors. As in all countries, the “global industry” of corruption often poses an obstacle to this.

Sustainability shortchanged in vision of the future

During the open-floor discussion following the interview, a businessman from India noted that the Western viewpoint of the British moderator, Sackur, had depicted the development of the Philippines in a somewhat one-sided light. From an Asian viewpoint, the economic advance is substantial and actually helps make things happen in society. Two young delegates to the symposium expressed less hopeful views. An entrepreneur from Manila was of the opinion that hope for a better life currently was not particularly strong in her home country. A student from Sri Lanka said he did not consider the current vision of economic development in the Philippines to be sustainable. Environmental considerations were not currently very important, he said. Purisima stressed that it is actually a great challenge to consolidate sustainable growth in the Philippines, but that this is part of his vision for the country.

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