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Threat of Sri Lanka-style crisis seen diminishing if gov’t boosts agri output

THE expansion of domestic food production and manufacturing output are expected to steer the Philippines away from falling into a Sri Lanka-type crisis, a bank economist said.

Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. Chief Economist Michael L. Ricafort said in a Viber message that the government needs to “reduce reliance on imports by improving productivity of the agricultural sector to… help ease food prices and lower inflation.”

“Increasing the productivity of both agriculture and manufacturing will create more jobs and other (boost) economic activity,” Mr. Ricafort said.

He said agricultural and manufacturing account for at least 40% of the work force.

“Also, by boosting the productivity of the industrial sector (the Philippines can) reduce reliance on imports,” he added.

Maria Ela L. Atienza, a political science professor at the University of the Philippines, said in a text message that the government needs to focus on strengthening small businesses while avoiding excessive tax burdens on working-class families.

“Taxation should target big business and not middle and low-income families,” Ms. Atienza said. “While foreign investment is needed, we should not be totally dependent on them so that we are prepared during economic crises.”

Mr. Ricafort said the government should spend effectively and minimize corruption and “leakage” of public funds, which are critical in stimulating the economy.

Ms. Atienza also called for stronger institutions like the justice system, expanded people’s participation in governance, a reduction of red tape, and a resolution to long-standing threats to peace following the rule of law.

“There is also a need further to diversify (away from) structural dollar revenue sources such as exports, OFW remittances, BPO revenues, foreign tourism, as well as foreign investment/FDI to create more employment,” Mr. Ricafort said. — Matthew Carl L. Montecillo