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The Philippines’ digital growth and resilience spurred on by new grant

The World Bank has formally approved a multi-million dollar financial grant that would spur the digital transformation of the Philippines as the country continues to recover from the pandemic, improve competitiveness, and build resilience against shocks and natural disasters.

The World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors unveiled the granting of a US$ 600 million grant called Promoting Competitiveness and Enhancing Resilience to Natural Disasters Development Policy Loan that will be used to adopt a string of digital technologies in the country. 

The lender foresees that this undertaking will bring in more investments into the Philippines as new technology fosters improved competition and upscales ease of doing business. The project is intended to provide inclusive recovery by accelerating the development of digital infrastructure under the area of telecommunications. Through this project, the shift to digital transactions and an e-governance framework will be fast-tracked.  

The World Bank aims to help the government reduce trade and indemnity costs as it makes the transition to an e-governance framework. Another goal is to assist the Philippine government in cutting back on the costs of doing business. The result, the World Bank explained, is an economic recovery on the back of job creation. The financial grant is also anticipated to help Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) to “bounce back” after sustaining a heavy beating during the pandemic. 

The funding can also be used to improve the delivery of social assistance to disadvantaged members of the population while enhancing health and safety protocols as the country continues its battle to stem the spread of the deadly COVID-19 virus. 

Ndiamé Diop, World Bank Country Director for Brunei, Malaysia, The Philippines and Thailand, said: “Reforms to improve digital infrastructure and speed up adoption of digital technologies will not only help the country’s efforts to recover from the impacts of the pandemic but will also boost its export competitiveness that is vital for creating more and better jobs in the future”. 

The Country Director added that the World Bank is likewise intent on helping the Philippine government streamline its adoption of a national ID system which it describes as a fundamental reform to enhance existing social programmes and to protect vulnerable groups during natural disasters.  

The World Bank loan will further sustain the Philippine government’s momentum as it adopts new technologies to shore up government transactions especially during the pandemic. OpenGov Asia has previously reported that the country is modernising its tourism sector by launching applications that can enhance its safety protocols. 

Helping address poverty 

In the same statement, the World Bank mentioned that aside from the loan for digital infrastructure, it is also extending a US$300 million Additional Financing for KALAHI-CIDSS National Community Driven Development Project (KC-NCDDP) to help the government alleviate poverty, particularly in rural areas.  The funding is to be used in improving community response initiatives and basic social services intended for municipalities deemed most affected by the impacts of the pandemic. 

The KC-NCDDP is set to be implemented by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and the Department of the Interior and Local Government.  Currently, the DSWD has a roster of community projects including the provision of basic facilities like access roads and reliable water systems in local communities which have limited internal revenue allotments and those which are not easily accessible because of geographic isolation. 

The Country Director noted, “Community-driven development approaches have shown to be effective in accelerating community reconstruction following disaster events and efficiently putting money for priority needs of communities around the world”. 

The World Bank is one of the world’s sources of funding. Aside from the Philippines, the lender has collaborated with several developing countries and is set to grant as much as US$160 billion until June 2021 to more than 100 countries to help support businesses and boost economic activity. It is also allotting US$12 billion for the purchase of COVID-19 vaccines. 

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