By Melissa Luz Lopez, April 24 2019; CNN Philippines

Image Credit to CNN Philippines

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 24) — The Philippines is on track in reducing poverty as more families benefit from faster economic growth, the World Bank said.

“Poverty reduction is likely to continue based on the growth outlook in the coming years,” the World Bank said in its East Asia and Pacific Economic Update published Wednesday.

Latest data from the Philippine Statistics Authority showed 21 percent, or one in every five Filipinos, is considered poor as of the first semester of 2018. This improved from the 27.6 percent poverty incidence rate during the first half of 2015.

Earlier this month, the World Bank trimmed its growth forecast for the Philippines to 6.4 percent because of the delayed passage of the 2019 national budget and the El Niño episode that could dampen farm output. The pace is slower than the previous 6.5 percent estimate, but will pick up from the 6.2 percent growth in 2018.

Part of the 10-point agenda of the Duterte administration is to reduce the number of poor Filipino families, with the government eyeing to trim the poverty rate to 14 percent by 2022.

READ: PSA reports fewer Filipinos living below poverty line as of first semester 2018

According to World Bank estimates, poverty incidence is seen sliding further to 20.7 percent this year, 19.5 percent by 2020, and to 18.5 percent come 2021.

The global lender said much relies on the country’s ability to sustain its growth momentum, which will help push family incomes higher.

“Filipino households are likely to continue reaping the gains from high economic growth. Non-agriculture wages will continue to spur growth in household incomes particularly those belonging to the lower income groups,” the report read.

The government’s various cash transfer schemes are also seen to help poor families keep up with high inflation, following last year’s price spikes for food and other basic goods.

The national government has been providing conditional cash transfers for over four million families. Since last year, the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion law also provided for fuel subsidies to jeepney drivers as well as an additional handout worth P2,400 yearly to help poor residents cope with higher costs.

Higher disposable incomes are then seen supporting consumption, which will grow faster from last year as inflation eases to below four percent and “strong election activities.” These are seen to offset the blow from slower state spending due to the delayed passage of the national budget, which left new projects hanging before the spending plan was signed by President Rodrigo Duterte on April 15.

READ: World Bank cuts 2019 PH growth forecast amid budget delay, El Niño

Goods exports are likely to remain sluggish due to a weaker global economy, highlighted by trade tensions between the United States and China as well as tighter financial conditions.

Still, the World Bank remains bullish on the country’s prospects, saying that its growth path “remains positive” and is bound to recover from last year’s slower-than-expected expansion.