By Rjay Zuriaga Castor
Iloilo City’s local economic development is expected to have a significant boost through a five-year project in collaboration with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
The city is one of nine cities in the country selected to benefit from the P625 million Urban Connect Project funded by the USAID.
“With their theory of change, they wish to improve the local economic development of Iloilo City, then it will result in inclusive and resilient economic growth. It will enhance our business environment, our processes if we integrate digitalization,” Velma Jane Lao, head of the Local Economic Development and Investment Promotion Office, told Daily Guardian.
The USAID project will fund capacity-building initiatives and provide technical assistance to help fast-track the partner cities’ economic development.
Lao pointed out that an improved economy will translate to better public service delivery, including enhanced public financial management and strengthened local health and education services.
“Their intervention will be more on partnerships, in making improvement plans which will be anchored in the city’s strategic roadmap,” she added.
also expressed hope that the project would help identify and address weaknesses in various processes, particularly within the business sector.
“Whatever are the areas for improvement, it will help us identify more weak areas and in identifying that we will be able to create and formulate interventions for us to address and eventually enhance it,” he said.
She added that with the project, the city is on track to become one of the top three most competitive highly urbanized cities (HUCs) in the country by 2028.
In the Cities and Municipalities Competitiveness Index this year, Iloilo City is the leading HUC outside the National Capital Region, ranking fourth overall in the country.
Under the Urban Connect Project, USAID will work closely with partner cities’ local governments to facilitate enterprise growth, streamline the business permit system, reinforce public financial management, promote e-governance transition, and enhance cooperation between neighboring cities.
The project was recently launched, coinciding with the celebration of World Cities Day on October 31.
“As your partner in prosperity, the U.S. government seeks to strengthen the capacity of our partner cities and surrounding areas to become not only centers of economic growth, but also beacons of inclusivity and innovation,” said USAID Philippines Mission Director Ryan Washburn.
He added that the Urban Connect Project aims to promote sustainability and resilience within the city, ensuring that no city is left behind as others progress.
Department of Interior and Local Government secretary Benhur Abalos is confident that USAID’s Urban Connect Project will align with and support the initiatives of other government entities to improve public service provision and promote local economic growth.