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The Philippines 2022: Expanding the middle class

By: Senator Manny Villar

The Philippine Development Plan 2017-2022 also lays out very clear targets by 2022.

First, it envisions the Philippines to be an upper-middle-income country by 2022 which translates to an “economy expanding by about 50 percent and per capita income increasing from USD 3,550 in 2015 to at least USD 5,000 in 2022.”

Second, it aims to correct the non-inclusive character of previous economic growth by aiming to be “more inclusive as manifested by a lower poverty incidence in the rural areas, from 30 percent in 2015 to 20 percent in 2022. This also means that “overall poverty rate is expected to decline from 21.6 percent to 14.0 percent in 2022 – equivalent to lifting about 6 million Filipinos out of poverty.”

I fully support the first two targets laid out in the Philippine Development Plan 2017-2022. Despite our sterling economic performance in recent years, many of our countrymen still struggle to make ends meet. I am glad the President has made this his priority.

President Duterte has strongly supported these goals ever since his assumption to office. In one of his speeches, he said, “I am confident that we will be able to lift more of our people from poverty, expand the economy by about 50 percent in real terms, and make the Philippines hopefully, I pray, an upper middle class income economy in 2022.”

Stable economic growth and improved distribution of income are key to expanding our middle class. Expanding the middle class should be the overarching strategy in our desire to win the war against poverty. And we are not the only one optimistic about our own chances.

Euromonitor International, one of the leading independent providers of strategic market research has identified the Philippines, together with China, India, Indonesia and Nigeria, as an emerging market with the best middle class potential. In its report, they projected that in these countries, “the middle class is set to become a prominent consumer force thanks not only to their large size, but also their strong income growth prospects and a median income exceeding US$10,000 per household in 2030.”

When we reflect on the “simple dreams” of our people, we will realize that they are essentially middle class dreams.

They want to live a life not burdened by the stress of looking for food for the next meal, or where to borrow to pay the tuition of their kids. I believe it is our duty to help them make their simple dreams come true.

The President also benefits from great economic managers in his economic team. In an interview widely reported in the press, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez said our economy is in “pretty good shape” under the Duterte administration. “This is clear proof that no amount of counterproductive political chatter from certain quarters could undermine the upward trajectory of a domestic economy that is in pretty good shape under a Duterte presidency that is fully committed to sustaining its growth momentum.”

My friend Sonny Dominguez is absolutely correct. The political noise that we hear in traditional and social media cannot hide the economic resurgence of the Philippines. For the longest time, we have complained about the boom-bust cycle of our economy. Today, we are enjoying the best performing, sustained economy in this part of the world. Why some noisy sectors will jeopardize this is beyond me.

In addition, the plan also envisions the country to have a high level of human development, an unemployment rate decline from the current 5.5 percent to 3-5 percent, a society where people trust their government, individuals and communities that are more resilient and where Filipinos have greater drive for innovation.

Four overarching, “cross-cutting strategies” under this plan also demonstrate the comprehensiveness of President Duterte’s development plan.

The plan also targets attaining