Valenzuela City Congressman Win Gatchalian has called on the government to implement a comprehensive set of measures alongside the Reproductive Health or “RH Law” for the country to maximize the benefits of its demographic sweet spot.
Gatchalian, a senior vice chair of the House committee on Metro Manila development and a majority member of the committee on trade and industry, said enforcing a set of enabling policies on good governance, labor, education, and trade, all of which will complement the “RH Law”, will improve the country’s chances for higher economic growth.
“It’s no use if you have a number of working-age people larger than the young and the old if they do not have jobs in the first place,” said Gatchalian.
He added, “The approach when it comes to policies has to be holistic because the issue of slow economic growth has many facets. You cannot put a stopper on one hole of a barrel and let the water run out from other holes.”
Data released last month by the Philippine Statistics Authority showed that of the 2.7 million unemployed, 49.1 percent are in the age group 15 to 24 years old.
“The ‘RH Law’ has to be complemented with measures that will improve the country’s competitiveness in attracting investments. There should also be enabling policies that will upgrade our current education system and induce the creation of quality and sufficient jobs,” Gatchalian pointed out.
The Department of Health has earmarked around P1.7 billion for the full implementation of the “RH Law” this year, with the goal of reducing the country’s fertility rate to two children per mother (2.1 percent) from the current three (3 percent), news reports showed.
The population is expected to reach 101.4 million in the middle of 2015.
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In a 2011 paper titled “Demographic Change and Economic Growth in South Asia” by professors from the Harvard School of Public Health, it was emphasized that economic benefits do not appear automatically with demographic transition.
“Rather, enjoyment of the [demographic] dividend is crucially determined by the policy environment. For example, good governance, carefully constructed trade policy, and sound macroeconomic management enhance the prospects of capturing the economic benefits of a favorable age structure,” stated in the research paper.
“By contrast, undue tampering with competitive forces in labor and capital markets and the failure to provide public goods diminish a country’s prospects of benefiting from demographic change,” it added.
The anti-trust measure has yet to be passed by the House on second reading, according to the legislative tracker of Arangkada Philippines as of Dec. 18 last year. Its counterpart measure has already been green-lit by the Senate on third reading.
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The measure rationalizing fiscal incentives, on the other hand, are still pending for committee approval on both Houses of Congress.
Amendments on the economic provisions of the Constitution have advanced to the House plenary while the Senate has yet to tackle it in the committee level.
Changes in the Electric Power Industry Reform Act are still being discussed in the House committee on energy.
The Freedom of Information bill has also been passed by the Senate on third reading but it has yet to hurdle the public information committee in the House. (Monica Cantilero)