In gov’t growth plan, OFWs a money matter

MANILA—OVERSEAS Filipino workers (OFWs) are a matter of state financial policy, the Philippine government’s growth plan for the next six years revealed.

A set of digital presentations containing excerpts of the 2011-2016 Philippine Development Plan (PDP) have OFWs included in Chapter 5 –”Financial Sector”– with a strategy of promoting “financial inclusion and equitable access to financial services”.

The PDP’s full text is yet to be made available to the public more than a month after the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Board announced approval of its adoption of the PDP during a meeting March 28 at Malacañan Palace.

The PDP outlines the socioeconomic development targets of the country and how government plans to achieve these.

The PDP presentation files that the OFW Journalism Consortium found posted online recently showed only excerpts of the nine chapters in the PDP.

Based on the excerpts of Chapter 5, the government said it will “promote greater financial literacy in the countryside and OFW-rich areas abroad through enhanced NGO and public-private partnerships”.

The Chapter, however, was absent on the specific mechanics of how government will traverse such path for OFWs.

One draft of the PDP —there are several since President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III’s government began work on it in 2010— included local government units in “financial education programs”.

The draft as of January 2011 and sent via email by a nongovernment organization (NGO) also noted that a “holistic financial education approach is critical” in promoting financial literacy.

Including OFWs in a chapter on financial policy differs from how past presidents treated overseas migration in their respective growth plans.

Previous medium-term PDPs, such as those under former presidents Joseph Estrada and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, contained a separate chapter on labor and employment, which traditionally included the OFW sector.

The 2011-2016 PDP mentioned labor and employment in Chapter 2, albeit emphasizing attracting investments in order to generate jobs.

The Aquino government’s treatment of OFWs in its PDP has been observed as “limited,” by the Scalabrini Migration Center.

International migration, the SMC said in its recently-released online study, “is treated in a limited way” in the MTPDP, and “has yet to be integrated and mainstreamed in national development planning”.

At the same time, SMC research director Dr. Maruja Asis wrote in Minding the Gap: Migration, Development and Governance in the Philippines that international migration policies have “to be linked to broader development processes” —not just on job generation and employment-related issues to which “international migration policy-making is very much focused.”

Another group wasn’t so kind.

In a statement, the multi-sectoral Fair Trade Alliance (FairTrade) said it was dismayed over the Aquino government’s MTPDP, saying the plan “lacks a ‘cohesive, comprehensive and pro-Filipino development agenda’.”

“The current draft of the MTPDP bares no semblance to a development plan nor does it lay down a national industrialization policy,” the FairTrade said.

But Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO) chairperson Imelda Nicolas said in a World Bank-sponsored forum abroad that CFO and migration-and-development stakeholders provided inputs in the chapters on macro-economy, financial sector, and social development.

Nicolas said the inputs in the macro-economy chapter included: harnessing remittances for development and supporting local government units to channel remittances to community development.

For the financial sector, the inputs were to generate comprehensive data on remittances, and to develop mechanisms for maximum developmental use of remittances.

For the chapter on social development, Nicolas said her office recommended mainstreaming migration and development in national and local development planning and using the community-based monitoring system in local development planning and mobilization of remittances.

A draft of the PDP assumes a “steady inflow of remittances from migrant Filipinos.”

And together with these remittances, the draft PDP said the Philippine government was able to pursue “broad-based financial sector reforms.”

The draft PDP also assumes that “Overseas Filipinos (OFs) have been looking for investment opportunities in the Philippines.”

Hence, it recommends that the national government (NG) “structure the issuance of debt papers earmarked for long-term funding needs.” By doing so, “OFs may find interest because they receive coupons in FCY while assured by NG that the funds are indeed earmarked.”

“The NG should be indifferent to this structure because it is similar to an ODA [official development assistance] structure except that funding is from OFs.”

The provision related to OFWs and OFs in the fifth chapter of the new PDP is seen as a response to clamors from various sectors for the Philippines to harness remittances for development.

But sources from NEDA said the complete text of the 2011-2016 PDP are still being edited and finalized before copies will be formally circulated. The NEDA central office website does not yet have even the Powerpoint files the OFW Journalism Consortium found.#