THE Department of Finance (DoF) said the Philippines will be able to achieve “upper middle-income” status this year with the assistance of the World Bank (WB).

In his speech in Washington D.C., Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III said the “generous” support of the WB is a “key factor” in the country to achieve its goal of becoming an upper middle-income economy in 2019, three years ahead of schedule.

“This year… we are proud to announce that the Philippines will achieve the status of an ‘upper middle-income’ nation ahead of schedule. The (World) Bank shares much credit for this achievement,” said Mr. Dominguez during the Philippine Day Forum held on April 11.

The WB defines an upper middle-income economy as having a per capita income of between $3,896 and $12,055. According to the latest WB data, the country’s gross national income per capita of $3,660 as of 2017.

Under the administration of President Rodrigo R. Duterte, the government targeted upper middle-income status by 2022, eventually becoming a high-income economy by 2040.

The government also plans to bring down poverty incidence to 14% by the time Mr. Duterte steps down from office in 2022, from 21.6% in 2015.

Mr. Dominguez also expressed gratitude to the bank for its assistance over the last six decades in developing the country’s human capital, disaster risk management, education and transport sectors, among others.

He also cited WB’s support in bring about peace and development in Mindanao’s conflict-ridden areas, which “has been a major component of the bank’s program in the country.”

“Today, the Philippines is one of the fastest-growing economies in the world. Reaching this milestone in our development story is attributable to many years of hard work — especially in building a strong fiscal position and a bureaucracy honed to the task of catalyzing growth,” Mr. Dominguez said.

He added that Mr. Duterte had “delivered resoundingly” on his socioeconomic reform agenda, which include a progressive tax reform program, improvement in ease of doing business and increased investments in human capital among others.

The government is pushing for comprehensive tax reform to simplify the regime and generate more revenue to expand social services and support its infrastructure program, which is pegged to cost P8 trillion.

The government embarked on its “Build, Build, Build” program in an effort to boost economic growth to 7.8% until 2022.

Mr. Dominguez also highlighted several reforms passed, including the new bank charter, adoption of a national ID system and new platforms to minimize the cost of doing business.

“These reforms should translate into even stronger resilience as we face the challenges of this year,” said Mr. Dominguez, citing foreseen global economic slowdown and rising concerns of recession in major industrial economies. — Karl Angelo N. Vidal