WB: Govt no good in poverty reduction

The Manila Times, March 6, 2008

Philippines is no good in reducing its poverty level, a former World Bank president said Wednesday.

On the sidelines of Bridges Dialogues Toward a Culture of Peace, James Wolfensohn, noted that despite the recognition of high-poverty level, Filipinos remain poor as shown in the latest government data. (See related story on front page.)

“The Philippines has the wealth to do it [reducing poverty level], and capability to do it. I just hope you do it,” he told reporters.

Wolfensohn said the government should increase its budget on education and health care, so that it will feel more significant improvements in the country’s poverty condition.

Compared with other developing nations, the former World Bank chief added that the national government’s spending on health and education is only 1/8 to 1/10.

“We’re now seeing recognition, [and] this should guide us all. What troubles me is that we all know what will happen. The direction is very clear. What amazes me (are] politicians and leaders who stand and do nothing,” he said.

Wolfensohn also noted that the Philippines is a predominantly young country where poverty has created disturbance among this segment. The youth needs good governance “so I hope (government leaders] do it.”

As the government continued to receive foreign aid, he said it should also know how to spend wisely. “Education spending is too little in other countries, equity comes from education and health care,” he added.

Former Finance Secretary Ramon del Rosario, also a speaker at the forum, said poverty reduction should start with senior government officials.

“Good government helps to adopt good policy guidelines,” del Rosario added. He warned that with a high poverty rate, economic growth cannot be sustained.