Canada recently celebrated its 25th International Development Week (IDW), an annual event highlighting our country’s work abroad promoting development for those less fortunate. For Canadians, this is an opportunity to reflect on our efforts in reducing poverty internationally and to encourage others to contribute as well.
The Philippines holds a special place in Canada’s international development programs. Wehave committed more than Cad$800 million in development programming to this country since 1986. Last year, Canada designated the Philippines as one of 25 “countries of focus” for international development. More than 90 percent of Canada’s bilateral development assistance is channelled to these countries. This designation will lead to heightened cooperation and is yet another example of our countries’ strengthening ties.
We hope this new focus on the Philippines will impact positively on poverty reduction, job creation and economic growth in the years to come. Our current program directly supports the Philippine government’s development priorities, aiming to achieve inclusive economic growth by improving the investment climate and advancing economic opportunities for the poor.
Canada’ s programming includes supporting reform efforts to foster a better business environment, increase the competitiveness and efficiency of the tourism and agribusiness sectors, build the government’s capacity for advancing public-private partnerships in infrastructure, and supporting employment facilitation and workforce development. We also focus on helping micro entrepreneurs and smallholder farmers, especially enterprises owned by women, to improve productivity and integrate domestic and global value chains.
Last year, Canada helped improve the investment climate in the Philippines by working with government in streamlining business registration procedures. Business registration has been simplified in 12 cities and 42 municipalities through our programs, and the number of days for obtaining a business permit has improved from a high average of 20 days to 1 to 3 days. Aggregate private sector savings increased from the reduced time and cost to comply with business regulations reaching Cad$14.2 million in 2014.
Canada has also helped advanced SME economic opportunities – supporting more than 7,000 micro-entrepreneurs, smallholder farmers and low- skilled workers (85 percent of whom were women) to improve their skills, income, and access to markets. We have funded programs to promote organic rice and cassava production, contributing to increased income for more than 11,800 farmers. In the tourism sector, our programs lead to the creation of 1,428 new jobs in assisted areas, with almost half going to women.
Canada also stepped up, quickly and in a significant way, on humanitarian assistance. Canada was the third largest country donor on Typhoon Yolanda assistance, allocating more than Cad$90 million in programming to match the $85 million personally contributed by Canadians to relief organizations. Our support included: delivery of food assistance to 3.7 million people; meeting the hygiene needs of 1.9 million people; providing 570,000 families with new shelters; and the launch of a business recovery center with the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Department of Interior and Local Government in Tacloban City. This centre will help micro, small and medium enterprises re-start their businesses and assist in investment promotion and business-matching.
Canada was also one of the largest country donors to typhoon Ruby. We provided Cad$5 million to Canadian and international NGOs to help meet water, sanitation and emergency shelter needs, and other essential relief items to those affected.
We look forward to working closely with the various agencies of the Philippine government and civil society to advance economic development and poverty reduction in this country. (Re-print from Philstar)
By Neil Reeder, Canadian Ambassador to the Philippines