Diokno: World Bank, eager to support govt’s digitalization and modernization efforts

Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno (twitter photo)

Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno said that the World Bank is keen on supporting the Philippine government in its bid to digitalize services and modernize the bureaucracy.

“I am very pleased to hear of the World Bank’s willingness to extend support for further digitalizing our revenue agencies and modernizing civil service in line with the President’s goal of rightsizing the bureaucracy,” said Secretary Diokno in a tweet on Monday (August 1), following his courtesy call meeting with World Bank Group Country Director Ndiame Diop.

Secretary Diokno and Diop met to discuss further alignment and expansion of cooperation between the Philippines and the World Bank based on the Marcos administration’s socioeconomic priorities.

The Marcos administration is implementing a comprehensive 8-point socioeconomic agenda that includes measures to optimize digitalization in improving tax administration and broadening financial inclusion.

Secretary Diokno said he aims to digitalize half of all retail payments and onboard 70 percent of the adult population to the formal financial system by 2023. This was a goal he set when he was governor of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP).

The World Bank is currently supporting the digitalization of the Bureau of Customs (BOC) through a USD 88.28 million financing for the Philippine Customs Modernization Program. The project focuses on transitioning from a largely manual and paper-based organization to a modernized BOC, achieving global standards and full modernization by 2024.

In the meeting, Secretary Diokno said that the government intends to pursue the civil service modernization project of the Civil Service Commission (CSC) which will be critical in the efforts to modernize the government and rightsize the bureaucracy.

Diop also noted the continued strong partnership between the World Bank and the Philippines, as evidenced by the bank’s increased support to the country.

As of March 2022, the World Bank is the country’s third largest Official Development Assistance (ODA) partner, with loans and grants amounting to around USD 6.86 million or 23.38 percent of the country’s total ODA receipts.

The bank has supported 68 program and project loans of the government since 2021 or over the last three administrations amounting to a total of USD 14.9 billion.

Currently, the bank is supporting the implementation of 15 ongoing program and project loans in the areas of transport, rural development, disaster risk reduction and management, social protection, customs modernization, and COVID-19 response amounting to USD 4.96 billion.

Loans in the pipeline under the current administration include various programs and projects on health and nutrition, education, renewable energy, fisheries, transport, tourism, agriculture, and further reforms in the finance sector.

The DOF is also looking into tapping available support from the bank for natural disasters, including the recent strong earthquake that affected Northwestern Luzon.