Record-keeping for resilience: Disaster risk finance and public asset registries

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Record-keeping for resilience: Disaster risk finance and public asset registries Image: Canva

Around 20 typhoons occur near the Philippines every year and nearly half of them hit the country — killing scores and destroying schools, hospitals, and other public infrastructure. The search for the money to rebuild typically starts the day after the calamity. Some emergency funds flow; charitable donations, too. But overall, public assets lack financial protection against disasters, despite the Philippines being one of world’s most disaster-prone countries and among the champions of disaster risk finance in East Asia. At the root is a basic problem: to cost-effectively insure public assets, the government needs to know their location, value, and age, among other data. Without insurance, it is forced to rely on ad hoc post-disaster financing.

The ruinous costs of under- or uninsured public assets prompted policymakers into action. In 2015, the government adopted a Disaster Risk Finance and Insurance Strategy. Two years later, a working group was tasked with solving the insurance problem. It included high-ranking officials from the Department of Finance & Bureau of the Treasury (BTr), Department of Budget and Management, Insurance Commission, and the Office of the President. To make public assets insurable, the group decided to create a database of all public assets with their locations, useful life and value.

The National Asset Registry System (NARS), established at the BTr, now records data on over 350,000 assets of several public agencies. It combines previously siloed data from government departments. Efforts are underway to improve the quality of the data, include more agencies and ensure interoperability with other databases. NARS, while still evolving, is already helping officials make effective decisions.


From disaster risk finance to better management of public assets

The new registry has helped the government tackle urgent public asset management challenges. First, much of the Philippines' infrastructure is old, built in the decades after the Second World War. This makes data-driven public asset management that covers the entire asset lifecycle vital. Second, infrastructure is under strain from rapid urbanization. One in two Filipinos live in cities, the figure is expected to rise to 84% by 2050. Third, the population, currently at 117 million, is only set to peak in 2076, at 153 million. Fourth, at current growth rates, the economy is doubling in size every decade. All this makes maintaining, building and decommissioning public assets central to public policy. The PhP 8.8 trillion ($148 billion) “Build Better More” infrastructure programme is an example of the government’s response to this pressure.

The government has started addressing these challenges through strategic policy reforms. With assistance from the World Bank, it set up a plan focused on creating a robust policy, institutional and competency framework, and conducting maturity assessments. The Philippine Government Asset Management Policy (PGAMP) was published in 2020, and the National Asset Management Plan (NAMP) followed in 2022. A key idea behind the reforms is to move beyond a focus on new investments to a comprehensive life-cycle approach. The aim is to integrate this approach into public agencies’ day-to-day thinking.


The way forward

Results are starting to show. Thanks to the new registry, some public assets are now insurable (private insurers have the right data to calculate risk). On January 1, the government launched its first National Indemnity Insurance Program. The program, insured by the state-owned Government Service Insurance System (GSIS), covers over 130,000 schools worth some PhP 800 billion ($14 billion). The government plans to scale up the program to protect more critical assets against disasters.

Continuous implementation is the hardest part. With the help of policy-based, fast-disbursing Word Bank loans, the government is taking the next steps. Four agencies have submitted new Agency Asset Management Plans. Several agencies have set up working groups to mainstream asset lifecycle management, the NARS is being expanded, and asset management is part of a forthcoming disaster risk-based budgeting framework.

The Philippines has made rapid progress in improving its asset register, and overall public asset governance and management. Strong political leadership and powerful economic incentives have been key to enabling affordable disaster risk finance. Going forward, gaps must be closed, processes made self-sustaining, and capabilities of line ministries strengthened further. But a path towards greater fiscal and disaster resilience—and bettering the lives of people who depend on public infrastructure—has been lit.


Editor's Note: This blog is part of a series on public asset management and how governments can enhance results associated with the non-financial assets side of their balance sheet (real estate, land, and intangible assets such as digital information); see Bringing Public Assets Out of the Shadows: Optimizing Infrastructure Services, Unlocking Revenues





Tatiana Skalon

Financial Sector Specialist

Kai Kaiser

Senior Economist, World Bank

Fabienne Mroczka

Senior Public Sector Specialist

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