PRRD's $180-billion supercharged infrastructure may be the ticket home for some Filipino overseas workers

President Rodrigo Duterte’s $180 billion infrastructure program is currently facing a dilemma: A lot of people are needed to build all the roads, bridges, railways and airports; however, most of them are working abroad.

It is known, that for decades, the Philippines has relied on money sent home by Filipinos who worked as nannies, maids, mariners, nurses and construction workers abroad. 

These workers can sometimes earn salaries of more than four times higher in other country.

With President Duterte’s plan to supercharge the transportation network- which was ranked worse than of Sri Lanka and Vietnam by the World Economic Forum, the lack of labor to do the work is now the roadblock. Will this lead the OFWs back home?

“The labor shortage is an issue that’s hounding the construction industry,’’ said Jan Paul Custodio, senior director at property consultant Santos Knight Frank in Manila. 

“There’s definitely a need for further skills training, now more than ever. There needs to be a boost to any repatriation program.’’ He said.

Nowadays, most of the private companies are upgrading skills of their own workers by setting up their own training facilities.

Though the economy has expanded 6.7 percent last year, the World Bank, on the other hand, said that higher investment is critical to sustain that pace of expansion.

Under President Duterte’s program Build, Build, Build, the plan is to boost the infrastructure which means spending up to 7.3 percent of gross domestic product by 2022 from 6.3 percent this year.

The first to be constructed is a new terminal at Clark International Airport – the former US airbase north of Manila. With this, its capacity would be triple to 12 million passengers per year.

There is also the subway and a 102 kilometer or 63 mile railway in Mindanao on the way. 

To sustain it, the government implemented a new tax law in December 2017, to add more  more than 180 billion pesos to financing the upcoming infrastructures.  Meanwhile, the biggest chunk of the expenses will be from Japan and China through loan grants.

The foreseen and is a bigger challenge will be the qualified engineers, and staff to operate the cranes, earth movers and heavy equipment. 

With the lack of skilled labor, the government must make the 10 million overseas workers come home and work for their own. 

However, to be able to do that, the price must really be right.

Source: Manila Bulletin

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