MANILA, Philippines – The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) believes passing the reproductive health (RH) bill will save the government funds and help bring in sustainable and inclusive economic growth.
In a briefing on Monday, December 3, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan, also the NEDA chief, told reporters that investing in reproductive health will give the government more room to address the needs of the poor in the the long-term.
Balisacan said the impact of passing the RH Bill now will not be immediately felt but the impact will be significant in the next 10 or 20 years. He said the RH bill represents a long-term investment for the government that will ensure the future of the next generation.
He said with less number of children, families can better invest in the education and health of their children or the country’s human capital. This means better educated and healthier workers of the future who can earn more and contribute to the economy more.
“I would rather have that problem when per capita income is much higher than have a problem of high dependency rate among very young where I don’t have much scope for maneuvering because I simply could not squeeze blood out of everyone who is already working,” Balisacan said.
The NEDA chief said the agency supports the passage of the RH Bill and has been pushing that it be passed into law. Balisacan said the NEDA supports informed choices and improving access to family planning services, particularly for mothers.
Reducing maternal mortality is one of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which the Philippines may not be able to achieve. Based on data from the Social Watch Philippines (SWP), maternal deaths in the country shot up to 221 per 100,000 live births as of July 2012.
In 2011, the same SWP data presented at the 1st National Consultation on the Philippine’s Post-2015 Agenda on Monday, showed that maternal deaths was at 97 per 100,000 live births and was lower in 2010, 95 per 100,000 live births.
“We have expressed our support for the RH, we have actually been pushing for it, yes NEDA has made a position, and its basically that we are in favor of informed choices, we are in favor of improving access to family planning services,” Balisacan said.
RH and human capital
Balisacan admitted that the absence of a clear reproductive health policy has been one of the major reasons why the Philippines has lagged behind in attaining MDG 5 or the goal on reducing maternal mortality.
With the absence of an RH bill, the country’s fertility rate was at 3.14 births per woman in 2010. This is high considering that some countries in the ASEAN, like Singapore, has a fertility rate of 1.2 births per woman.
This has led to lower investments on education, and health tend to decline per child, specially if there are many children. This undermines their competitiveness, especially under a globalised setting.
He added that it has been “well-established, well researched” by various experts that the poor have a higher unwanted fertility birth than the rich. This means that as the income of families decline, the children have less access to education and health services.
If families are able to invest on children more, this will ensure that they will become as or even more educated and healthier compared to other countries in the region. Balisacan said if the country is unable to invest in human capital, Filipinos’ competitiveness will be threatened.
This is important, specially since the Philippines is a major labor exporter. Government data showed that the country sends out around 3,000 Filipino workers abroad daily.
Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) provide a significant boost to the economy by encouraging household consumption. Public and private consumption account for more than 50% of the Philippine economy.
“Poor families would be able to invest more on the human capital of their children and that should have a positive impact on the welfare and future of these children, especially the competitiveness of these children in the future and therefore also of the country because if you are investing toward improved human capital we are actually investing in long-term sources of growth, which is more sustainable,” Balisacan explained. – Rappler.com