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Diokno, economists in favor of Balisacan taking over Agri post

Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno and private sector economists are in favor of seeing National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Secretary Arsenio Balisacan lead the Department of Agriculture.

Diokno, the head of the economic team, said it was a “sound proposal.”

“He [Balisacan] has heard it many times, and Arsi’s undergrad degree is in Agriculture Economics,” Diokno said.

At present, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. is the concurrent Agriculture secretary.

NEDA Secretary Arsenio Balisacan

Security Bank Corp. economist Robert Dan Roces said it would be advantageous should Balisacan take over the Agriculture portfolio in a concurrent position.

“The advantage of the co-termed (NEDA and Agriculture) is that there is faster coordination with NEDA,” Roces said.

As NEDA chief, Roces said Balisacan is well-versed on the need to have better output from agriculture, as well as the nuances of the supply, demand, and price effects of output.

For his part, Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. chief economist Michael Ricafort told the Manila Standard that Balisacan could be one of the best choices to lead the agency.

“That is given his longtime expertise on Philippine agriculture which has been his specialization for many years,” Ricafort said.

Ricafort said the textbooks on agriculture economics written by Balisacan are prescribed in schools.

Bank of the Philippine Islands lead economist Jun Neri said it would be good to have a “full-time Agriculture Secretary.”

“Sec. Arsi can do a great job in DA given his vast research background in poverty and how it relates to agri productivity,” Neri said.

Balisacan is an economist with extensive high-level policymaking practice and a well-recognized expert in Asia on economic development, inequality and poverty, antitrust (competition policy), and political economy of policy reforms.

Prior to his Cabinet appointments, he was Dean of the UP School of Economics, director-chief executive of the Southeast Asian Regional Centre for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA), and undersecretary for Policy and Planning of the Department of Agriculture.

Before joining the UP faculty in 1987, he was a research fellow at the East West Center in Honolulu and Economist at the World Bank in Washington, D.C.

He has authored and co-edited seven books and published, both locally and internationally, close to 100 academic papers and book chapters on various development issues, particularly in the Philippines and East Asia.

His papers have appeared in Economics Letters, World Development, Review of World Economics, and Economic Development and Cultural Change, among others. He founded—and served as editor in 2004-2016 of—the Asian Journal of Agriculture and Development.

He is a lifetime Member-Academician of the National Academy of Science and Technology, the country’s peer-elected group of select individuals who have made outstanding contributions to science and technology.

Balisacan pursued his Ph.D. in Economics from the University of Hawaii, MS in Agricultural Economics from the University of the Philippines Los Baños, and BS in Agriculture from the Mariano Marcos State University.

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