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The Need for Urgency in Moving the Philippines' Reform Agenda Forward

June 13, 2012

  • Regular dialogue between the Bank and its development partners strengthens the impact and effectiveness of the World Bank Group program of activities
  • Inputs from development partners are critical for shaping future directions for the World Bank Group
  • Participants agree on the need for urgency to produce results and support reforms under the Aquino government that will improve the lives of poor Filipinos

On May 14, 2012, new World Bank Country Director Motoo Konishi asked government representatives, CSOs, private sector groups, and development partners a few straightforward questions - “Are we supporting the right reforms?  Are we all pulling in the same direction?”  These were basic questions but the answers are critical to informing how the Bank can improve its support to the government’s agenda of improving the lives of the poor in the country.

Mr. Konishi told more than 100 partners and stakeholders who participated at a recently-concluded multi-stakeholder dialogue in Manila, that the World Bank Group recognizes and shares the urgency with which the Aquino government wants to move this agenda forward and to show results.

During the dialogue, participants put their heads together to offer feedback on the Country Assistance Strategy or CAS, which outlines the Bank’s development priorities in the Philippines through mid-2013, and also to highlight emerging issues and options for the Bank to consider in its program going forward.

Bureau of Internal Revenue Commissioner Kim Henares also highlighted the urgency for impact, indicating that  the Aquino administration only has four years left to implement reforms and projects.  An elected president has only one six-year term under the constitution to carry out his programs for the country.  

“We look to the World Bank to share the best practices in the world, to show us how we can get to that practice, and to identify  the cost,” Henares explained in maximizing the time that’s left of the Aquino administration.   Commissioner Henares added that “at the end of the day, it is not about dictating to the government,” stressing that it is up to the government to agree or disagree or to make adjustments.

Edilberto de Jesus, President of the Asian Institute of Management, which co-organized the event with the World Bank Group, expressed confidence in the group of civil servants and cabinet members behind the Aquino government, which he said is a “compelling reason to express hope that we can move forward.”

Representatives from the academe meanwhile underscored the importance of stakeholder involvement in the dialogue process to address the ‘objectivity of policies and interventions.’   During the one-day meeting that sought to provide answers on how to improve the World Bank Group's engagement in the Philippines, participants joined focus groups on job creation, strengthening service delivery (notably health and education) and supporting the poor and vulnerable, including through strengthening the government’s conditional cash transfer program.  These issues will directly affect the formulation of a new Country Partnership Strategy for World Bank Group activities in the Philippines for 2014-2017.   The strategy will be presented to the World Bank Executive Board in July 2013.

From the discussions, participants also recognized the need for exercising urgency from policy development to the implementation stage, as well as the need for further capacity-building at the local government level to improve the delivery of basic services.

During  his keynote note speech, Budget and Management Secretary Florencio Abad  lauded the World Bank Group for pursuing a multi-stakeholder process in developing its country assistance strategy that’s relevant and responsive not only to the government’s development plan, but “more importantly, to the needs of our people.”