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Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Debt, population growth keeping us poor -- Lagman

First posted 00:46:45 (Mla time) September 02, 2007
Norman Bordadora

MANILA, Philippines
-- Massive debt payments and rapid population growth have kept the country’s poor from enjoying the fruits of what the President claims to be a record economic growth rate, according to the chair of the House budget panel.

Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, chair of the powerful committee on appropriations that will review MalacaƱang’s budget plan for 2008, said the 7.5 percent growth rate in the country’s gross domestic product is real but so are “population expansion and huge debt service.”

“The twin problems of excessive population growth and debt service derail and dilute the expected trickle-down effect of economic growth,” he said.

Lagman, chair of the House budget panel for the next year-and-a-half, said he intends to scrutinize MalacaƱang’s budget proposal for debt payments that stand at almost P300 million -- a considerable portion of the P1.2-trillion plan.

“Economic growth should be complemented by a comprehensive national policy on reproductive health and population management as well as innovative acceptable modes of debt reduction and condonation,” Lagman said in an interview.

“The chief executive must think of creative ways to ease our debt burden [as] many countries are already enjoying debt condonation,” he said.

Lagman said he’s amenable to Speaker Jose de Venecia’s proposal for debt swap schemes that would mean reduced obligations if the country allocates funds for Millennium Development Goals such as less incidence of poverty and improved ecology.

Despite an existing law giving automatic appropriation for debt servicing, Lagman said he would push for a “selective automatic appropriation.”

He has refiled in the 14th Congress a bill that seeks to repeal the law mandating automatic appropriations on debt payments.

An advocate of population control, Lagman has also filed a bill providing for a national policy on reproductive health, responsible parenthood and population development.

“Joblessness and poverty cannot be overcome by economic growth alone if the population problem and debt menace are not contained,” Lagman said.

“If we are able to effectively mitigate population explosion and reduce debt service, economic growth will not only trickle down but may also cascade to the grassroots,” he said.