Here is an agenda for the next administration to sustain recovery and hasten economic development:

1. Strengthening the health-care system

The pandemic highlighted the need for more quality investments in health care to create greater resilience once shocks are experienced. The government needs to craft long-term plans and strategies for the healthcare system so that it will emerge from the crisis stronger than before. It should foster closer public-private collaboration to bring about innovations in the health sector and further develop the country’s health-care infrastructure. In addition, it should increase investments in human capital, particularly in doctors, nurses, and other health-care professionals. The universal health-care system must be overhauled. The use of digital and IT systems must be promoted to make health services readily available, particularly in remote areas.

2. Modernizing and boosting agriculture

Low labor productivity has plagued the agriculture sector due to inefficient production methods, small average farm sizes, and low investments in the sector. Property rights issues emanating from unresolved agrarian reform issues have resulted in uncertainty, so they must be resolved to increase private investments in the sector. Also, government funding to agriculture must be increased but should be well targeted to sub-sectors and goods that have comparative advantage. Agriculture policies should be insulated from politics; corruption in the sector should be eradicated. Modernizing agriculture will require upgrading R&D, investing in new and climate-smart technologies, and providing the right incentives for farmers and agricultural workers to increase productivity.

3. Promoting manufacturing through sound industrial policy

Sound industrial policy focuses on innovation and new technologies at the national and regional levels. It must be based on rigorous economic analysis, transparency, and accountability to highlight the country’s comparative advantage. The government can promote manufacturing by supporting sectors that have strong backward and forward linkages. Manufacturers that have high labor absorption, especially those that can provide opportunities for less educated workers, must also be adequately supported. This industrial policy should also foster closer academe-private sector collaboration to maximize commercial returns to innovations resulting from R&D.

4. Accelerating Industry 4.0 adoption and digitization

Faster adoption of technologies, known as Industry 4.0, should increase productivity in the industrial sectors, including manufacturing, power, mining, oil and gas, and agriculture. These technologies exploit improvements in data collection, computing power, and connectivity. They include IoT, advanced analytics, robotics, automation, and advanced engineering techniques like 3-D printing. Various programs can be implemented to help MSMEs benefit from these new technologies faster. One-stop platforms and training programs could also be created to ease the transformation of these businesses in areas like targeted marketing, consumer behavior insights, logistics, and procurement.

5. Advancing renewable energy sources

DOE’s data show that renewable energy’s share in the power capacity mix as of 2020 stands at 29.2 percent, with hydro contributing the most (14.6 percent), followed by geothermal (7.5 percent), solar (4 percent), wind (1.7 percent), and biomass (1.4 percent). The government should raise the contribution of renewables to its total electricity-generating capacity to 50 percent. Ensuring effective, efficient regulation and offering incentives for investment are among the measures needed to meet this goal. The government should also encourage the adoption of electric vehicles, both two-wheeled and four-wheeled. Efforts should be made to expand the market through incentives for buyers and manufacturers, as well as grants for R&D activities.

6. Preparing for a blended and hybrid educational system

The quality of Philippine education had been in a deplorable state even before Covid-19 struck. Covid-19 derailed efforts to improve the quality of education. Significant investments in blended learning must be made such that the most essential learning competencies are highlighted. A curriculum review towards rationalizing and strengthening the K-12 and tertiary programs must also be done. Investment in teachers’ training and professional development must also be increased. Collaboration of community, school, parents, and learners in school improvement plans and governance must be fostered.

7. Building a proactive social protection system

For decades, poverty has not been eradicated because many are merely above the threshold; they move in and out of poverty once shocks hit them. A strong social protection system can shield them from this occurrence. With digital technology and the national ID system, a more efficient targeting and distribution system can be put in place. The national ID system can serve as the backbone of the targeting system. Digital IDs can be authenticated remotely to provide ease and security for financial transactions and give Filipinos greater access to financial services. Unconditional cash transfers targeting the poor and marginalized must be the core of the social protection system, together with the universal health-care system and quality education for all.

Dr. Fernando T. Aldaba is Senior Fellow of Eagle Watch, Professor of Economics, and former Dean of the School of Social Sciences of the Ateneo de Manila University.

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