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PH irrigation projects flawed, says gov’t think tank

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06:56 AM July 27th, 2013

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July 27th, 2013 06:56 AM

MANILA, Philippines—The Philippine Institute of Development Studies (PIDS), the government’s think tank, has warned legislators that irrigation “has not been found to be effective” among programs classified as public goods.

“This places in question the current plan to ramp up investment on irrigation, making it, by far, the largest single item for public spending on agriculture,” said Dr. Roehlano Briones in a PIDS study presented before congressional staff members and agriculture officials earlier this week.

“Such investment plans should be reviewed given that studies point to design flaws and other implementation problems in past irrigation projects,” he said in the 46-page study submitted to the Department of Budget and Management.

P80B for agri

The Department of Agriculture stands to receive P80.7 billion in the proposed P2.268-trillion national budget for next year. “Irrigation network services” were allocated P21.1 billion while P12 billion was set aside for farm-to-market roads.

In the 2013 budget, P23.1 billion was earmarked for the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) to cover more than 80 “locally funded projects.”

Former NIA chief Antonio Nangel lost his job following a public scolding from no less than the President during the agency’s 50th anniversary last June 25.

Mr. Aquino blasted Nangel even as the President noted that NIA’s accomplishment rate for “new areas of irrigation” was only at 66 percent from 2001 to 2009. He said the “yearly failures” were persistent until 2012, or two years after he assumed office.

Nangel and the rest of the NIA administration were also scolded over a delayed irrigation project in the President’s home province of Tarlac.

Laggard growth

In the PIDS study, Briones noted that “expenditures on agriculture have been rising over time, as expression of the state’s commitment to reduce poverty, raise rural incomes and household welfare and promote food security.”

“However, agriculture continues to exhibit disappointing performance, namely laggard growth, lack of diversification and competitiveness, tepid productivity growth and persistent poverty among farmers,” he said.

“There is basis for attributing this performance at least in part to faulty design and execution of agricultural programs.”

Instead of irrigation, the government was encouraged to focus on other programs such as roads and electrification, and research and development.

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