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Permanent Mission of the Republic of the Philippines to the United Nations

Philippine Statement
By
H.E. ALBERTO G. ROMULO
Secretary of Foreign Affairs of the Philippines

TOGETHER WINNING THE WAR AGAINST POVERTY
,
during the World Leaders’ Meeting on Poverty Alleviation
20 September 2004, New York

 

Mr. Chairman, Excellencies, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen:

At the outset, I wish to congratulate His Excellency President Lula and the government of Brazil for convening this Leaders’ Summit on hunger and poverty alleviation. Meeting on the eve of the opening of the 59th UN General Assembly helps to highlight and raise political and public consciousness on these vital issues.

H.E. President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and the Filipino people share your belief that social justice is essential in our efforts to attain peace and economic development.

Millennium Development Goals and Poverty Eradication

Four years ago, at the Millennium Summit, a critical mass of support was generated to reduce poverty by half by the year 2015.

Three years ago, not far from here, we witnessed the viciousness and savagery when the misguided few feed upon the discontent of the many, including the poor and the marginalized.

The United Nations Millennium Declaration which was adopted in September 2000 committed nations to stronger global efforts to reduce poverty, improve health and promote peace, human rights and environmental sustainability. Specific goals were set with measurable targets to eradicate poverty worldwide.

These broad objectives and the commitment of rich and poor countries to achieve them, were affirmed in the Monterrey Consensus that emerged from the March 2002 UN Financing for Development conference, the September 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development and the launch of the Doha Round on international trade.

We have to meet these goals, for our people and our future. We have to succeed if we are to have any hope of defeating those whose only answer to today’s challenges is terror.

For the war against terror is only half-won without winning the war against poverty.

President Arroyo’s Ten-Point Agenda and Poverty Eradication

For my government, addressing poverty requires understanding its causes. Poverty stems from a variety of factors, including long-standing inequalities in the distribution of initial asset endowments; social, cultural, and political barriers; and governance and institutional failures. Hence, overcoming poverty requires a comprehensive set of social and economic policies and programs with an equity orientation, underpinned by good governance and adherence to the rule of law.

In the Philippines, the Arroyo administration, in its war against poverty has adopted a comprehensive set of policies and programs aimed at addressing the needs of the poor as outlined in the Medium Term Philippine Development Plan (MTPDP) for 2001-2004 with the following core strategies:

1. Macroeconomic stability with equitable growth based on free enterprise;
2. Agricultural and fisheries modernization with social equity;
3. Comprehensive human development and protecting the vulnerable;
4. Good governance and the rule of law.

Our development agenda is geared not only for sustained growth in aggregate terms but also higher growth in the sectors where the poor are mostly concentrated. We aim to expand and equalize access to economic and social opportunities, inculcate receptivity to change, and promote personal responsibility. Thus, the President has recently unveiled a 10 point development agenda which gives priority to the creation of six to ten million jobs, education for all, balancing the national budget in view of the country’s debilitating woes, decentralization of government, provision of adequate power and water supply nationwide, decongestion of Metro Manila, development of Clark and Subic as the logistics center in Asia, automation of the electoral process, and peace agreements.

The 10 point program advocates improvement of the business environment so there could be 10 million jobs for the next six years, reduction of poverty incidence from 34 percent to 17 percent and increase in investments from 19 percent in gross domestic product (GDP) ratio to 28 percent in the next two years.
The Arroyo government also aims to stabilize the foreign exchange rate and increase exports from $38 billion to $50 billion within two years, develop two million hectares of agricultural business land, and support two million entrepreneurs.

To strengthen and sustain the country’s global competitiveness, the government will try to reduce the cost of electricity, modernize infrastructure, and reduce red tape in all government agencies. Other priority measures undertaken by the government to fight poverty include enhancing competitiveness in the industry and services sector, implementing regional development programs and targeting social development programs including population management. The National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC), which was created by the government to effectively coordinate and manage anti-poverty programs at all levels, monitors our country’s commitment to reduce poverty under the Millennium Development Goals.

Domestic Resource Mobilization

National development is indeed mainly a national responsibility, and in the implementation of the UN Millennium Declaration and the Monterrey Consensus, domestic resource mobilization is important for self-sustaining development.

I wish to state at the outset that to generate stronger economic growth and achieve sustainable development, it is important that all countries must have domestic policies that ensure an enabling environment for investment and private sector activity. Toward this end, countries should pursue reforms to ensure macro-economic stability, strengthen the infrastructure, improve governance and enhance the human capital through broader and more effective delivery of services.

Such reforms should emphasize the development of multiple channels of support for financing for development, at the local or international level from both the public and private sectors through bilateral or multilateral means. Widening the tax base and improvement of tax collection to ensure adequate revenue levels for public expenditures is needed as well as strengthening of the public expenditure management system in which budget formulation should increase the transparency of resources allocated to infrastructure and social expenditures. Reforms should also include deepening of the financial system to further strengthen the prudential regulation and supervision of banking systems and an orderly development of their financial sector, development and strengthening of institutions, including development banks, to facilitate access to medium- and long-term finance, debt and equity financing for SMEs and services for small-scale savers. Finally, reforms are needed for promotion of a participatory process in decision-making that encourage participation by civil society and the private sector.

Regional Cooperation

Given the major disadvantages and constraints facing developing economies, it is also essential that the international environment, including regional and sub-regional arrangements, are supportive of national development efforts.

Regional cooperation, in particular, has a critical function in assisting and complementing national agendas by providing a favorable external environment. It also serves to bridge the gap between the national and international levels in the implementation of initiatives on financing for development. Regional cooperation could greatly contribute to strengthening global governance through sharing of best practices among countries. Therefore, it should not be contradictory, but rather complementary to the existing global cooperative framework.

In the realm of financing for development, regional cooperation should help countries strengthen their capacities and provide the enabling environment for development to take place.

In particular, regional efforts should be focused on domestic resource mobilization, promotion of sustainable debt management, increasing official development assistance (ODA), facilitating ownership of ODA, development of an equitable international trade system and the promotion good governance among countries.

Currently, regional mechanisms of the UN and other regional organizations are moving in that direction. Initiatives of the regional economic and social commissions of the UN, the Chiang Mai Initiative of APEC, the outcome of the ASEAN Finance Ministers Meeting in August 2003 and the New Partnership for Economic Development (NEPAD) are just a few shining examples of these regional cooperation efforts.

Regional financing institutions in coordination with other relevant multilateral bodies should devise modalities for the implementation of debt swap for poverty programmes covering not just those countries qualifying under the highly indebted poorest countries (HIPC) initiative.

Regional financing institutions should also provide more support for the development of micro-, small- and medium scale enterprises (MSMEs). They should also allow for a more participatory approach in the preparation of their country assistance programmes. This is to ensure ownership by their beneficiaries in the implementation of such programmes.

I strongly believe that with our commitment, we will be able to harness the vast potential of our respective countries and forge strong partnerships at the regional level among all stakeholders. By doing so, we could help ensure that we will be on track in attaining our common objective of achieving the UN Millennium Development Goals.

A Daunting Task

Alleviating poverty is too daunting a task to be just left to government. It needs an integrated and holistic approach of all stakeholders to harmonize their activities at national and State levels for all the peoples of the world.

In developing countries, implementation of the Millennium Goals must focus on mobilizing domestic resources, prioritizing budget expenditure on the MDGs, and strengthening human rights, democracy and good governance as specified in the Millennium Declaration.

In developed countries, implementation of the Millennium Goals must focus also on mobilizing domestic resources, ensuring that aid is allocated to sectors and services relevant to the MDGs and opening markets more widely to developing countries. Each of these objectives must be pursued in ways sensitive to country context and target groups. The world community - international agencies, bilateral donors, private actors, civil society organizations - must likewise help the country reach critical thresholds for attainment of the goals through increased assistance. Regional integration must be a policy priority. Regional cooperation, including shared investments in critical infrastructure, can expand trading opportunities across small economies thus providing a central platform for sustained economic growth.

Four years ago at the Millennium Summit, we recognized that the eradication of poverty is one of the key factors for the attainment of global security. Today, we again re-affirm our commitments towards achieving the overarching goal of alleviating poverty worldwide.

Thank you.









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