Infrastructure laggard

The government has promised to “build, build, build,” so by next year, the country’s ranking in terms of development and accessibility of physical infrastructure could improve.

In the latest Access to Physical Infrastructure Index, drawn up by the United Nations Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific or UNESCAP, the Philippines ranked 24th among 41 countries in the region. Papua New Guinea received the lowest APII score while Japan was ranked No. 1.

The APII covers four infrastructure sectors: transportation, energy, information and communications technology, and water supply and sanitation. The index is included in a report on Asia-Pacific states with special needs. The study emphasizes the importance of infrastructure development in reducing poverty and promoting inclusive growth and a sustainable future.

Even before the release of the UNESCAP report, the Duterte administration had unveiled a three-year rolling infrastructure program or TRIP amounting to P3.6 trillion. The projects include the sectors covered by the UNESCAP report as well as solid waste management, maritime and social infrastructure.

Administration officials unveiled TRIP at a forum on “Dutertenomics” last month, during which they promised to usher in a “golden age of infrastructure” under the watch of President Duterte. If the objectives are met, especially within the targeted timelines, it would undoubtedly boost efforts to ease poverty.

The UNESCAP study stressed the strong link between infrastructure development and poverty reduction and economic growth in the Philippines as well as in Bangladesh, China, India, Kazakhstan and Papua New Guinea. It noted that the quality of infrastructure in the Philippines in the four sectors or sub-indices was at par with Indonesia, Pakistan and Tajikistan.

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With an infrastructure blueprint in place, President Duterte undoubtedly knows that implementation is another story. And he surely knows the likely roadblocks in his plan to build, build, build: corruption, voluminous red tape and sheer inefficiency. These are the problems that have always pulled down the country in infrastructure ranking. These problems must be tackled decisively if the nation is to achieve a golden age of infrastructure.

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