World Bank: Philippines reducing poverty, can end it within a generation with sustained growth

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MANILA, Philippines — The World Bank said Wednesday the Philippines can eliminate poverty within a generation as sustained economic growth in recent years has translated into more jobs and higher incomes.

The bank said in a report that more than a million jobs were created between October last year and October 2013, pulling unemployment down to a 10-year low of 6 percent.

Real incomes of the bottom 20 percent of Filipinos grew much faster than the rest of the population and unemployment among the poor dropped. The government's program of conditional cash transfers is effective in reaching those most in need, the report said.

Poverty has remained at high levels in the Philippines relative to some East Asian countries, reflecting a succession of corrupt governments in past decades and the country's vulnerability to natural disasters including typhoons.

The bank forecasts the Philippine economy will expand 6.5 percent this year, slightly down its earlier forecast of 6.7 percent. It estimated full-year growth last year at 6 percent, down from an earlier forecast of 6.4 percent due to slower government spending and lower farm production.

It said sustaining such high growth and accelerating reforms can lead to massive cuts in poverty and to wealth being shared by more people. Government data shows that about a quarter of the country's 100 million people have income of less than 18,935 pesos ($1,290) a year.

"If growth is sustained at 6 percent per year and the current rate at which growth reduces poverty is maintained, poverty could be eradicated within a single generation," said Rogier van den Brink, a World Bank economist.

Over the long-term, if growth is sustained at 6 percent per year, per capita income can double within a decade, grow five times in two decades, and increase 11 times in three decades, the report said.

But it said a more aggressive approach to addressing stubbornly high underemployment in required.

The report said changes needed include increasing investments in infrastructure, health and education; enhancing competition; simplifying regulations to promote job creation and protecting property rights to encourage more investments.

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