Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Farm, fisheries No. 1 job creator in the Philippines

Ira Karen Apanay And Jefferson Antiporda
Manila Times
http://www.manilatimes.net/national/2009/july/22/yehey/top_stories/20090722top2.html

The farm and fisheries sector created additional 412,000 jobs this year, making it the No. 1 job generator for the first quarter of 2009, according to Presidential Economic Adviser and Gov. Joey Salceda of Albay.

Salceda on Tuesday said that based on data of the Bureau of Labor and Employment Statistics, employment in the farm and fisheries sector as of April 2009 was estimated at 12.318 million, which is higher by 3.47 percent compared to 11.905 million for the same period last year.

“Philippine agriculture created more jobs than the trade sector, which only ranked second with 345,000 jobs,” he added. “This proves that the Arroyo government’s decision to reverse 30 years of official neglect of the agriculture sector through sustained, higher public investments is now reaping positive results.”

Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap said that the increased spending for agriculture “has proved to be timely and effective.”

Yap added that focusing on irrigation and other rural infrastructure has already yielded positive results with palay or unhusked rice production expanding by 5.1 percent or double its average growth a year ago.

He said that rehabilitation and restoration work of the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) has allowed farmers to plant an additional 69,000 hectares of farmland or 5.7 percent more than last year.

“Such gains were the result of President Gloria Arroyo’s increased spending on agriculture, P25.36 billion in 2007, P35.39 billion in 2008 and P46.86 billion this year,” Yap added.

More stimulus

Salceda has recommended to the government to pour more “stimulus funds” into Philippine agriculture, particularly into irrigation, to sustain the sector’s resilience and its status as a primary growth driver even in the midst of a global financial contagion.

“Without the agriculture growth contribution, GDP [gross domestic product] would have been sub-zero. Despite the obvious odds, its 2.1-percent increase in gross value added may not be stellar but it was the highest among the sectors which best proves the logic of government budgetary stimulus, specifically to the Department of Agriculture,’’ he said.

GDP, a key economic indicator, is the total cost of all goods and services produced in a country in a year.

He added that the Department of Agriculture’s policies in the last two years have enabled the agriculture sector, which accounts for 20 percent of the economy, to remain resilient while every other sector had gone into a slump.

From 2001, the start of the Arroyo presidency, to the present, the government was able to generate a total of 8.95 million jobs in the private sector and at least 12 million jobs were created through government projects, according to the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE).

Also, the department said in a statement, it was able to give jobs to at least 7.78 million individuals who have sought its assistance.

“This only shows that President Gloria Arroyo was able to fulfill her promise . . . and whatever type of assessment [is to be] made by anyone, the DOLE data on job generation can’t be contested,” Assistant Secretary Reydaluz Conferido said during the weekly Kapihan ng Bayan news forum in Quezon City.

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Agreeing with Salceda

The research group agreed with Salceda that the largest number of jobs created was in the agriculture sector, which registered a 408,000 increase (not 412,000, according to Salceda) in jobs but saw year-on-year growth in production falling 0.7 percentage points in the first quarter of 2009 from the same period last year.

“Clearly, even the surprisingly large job creation in April 2009 from the year before was not enough to increase household incomes and corresponding consumption—highlighting the need for genuine policies that will create sufficient and quality jobs, beyond government’s token measures like supposed emergency programs and job fairs,” it said.

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