28% of Pinoys dirt-poor
Poverty level unchanged despite govt growth claim
The government reported Tuesday that the number of poor families in relation to the total population remained unchanged since 2006, with 28 out of every 100 Filipinos living below the poverty line in the first half of 2012.
In a press briefing, the secretary general of the National Statistical Coordination Board, Jose Ramon G. Albert, said 27.9 percent of the population lived in poverty, not significantly different from the levels posted in 2006 and 2009, when the last surveys were taken.
The administration asked the public to be patient while the country’s economic gains trickled down to the rest of the population.
“It certainly will not happen overnight, everyone knows that. We have three more years to keep pushing on that front because everybody wants to see those numbers go down,” deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said after the NSCB report was released.
“Inclusive growth is the goal that everybody wants, that everybody is working for. But apart from what the economists call as trickle down effect, we are also working on direct interventions,” Valte added.
But the opposition pounced on the latest poverty statistics, saying the administration’s policy of doling out billions of pesos to the poor had done nothing to improve their lot and had even made them lazy.
“The people who receive the financial assistance from the poverty alleviation program of the government tend to be lazy, they do not want to work anymore, and think, ‘Why work and worry when reward is certain?’” said Siquijor Rep. Orlando Fua.
Under the Aquino government’s P40-billion 4Ps or conditional cash transfer program, “the poorest of the poor” are given monthly allowances in exchange for agreeing to keep their children in school but must, by definition, be unemployed to qualify for the doles.
“The 4Ps has been ineffective in addressing the country’s poverty and hunger. Instead of teaching Filipinos to strive for more, the program encourages them to be lazy and to be content with what they have or what they can get from the government,” Fua said.
The latest NSCB report said a Filipino family of five needed P5,458 to meet basic food needs every month and P7,821 to stay above the poverty threshold (basic food and non-food needs) every month in 2012.
These respective amounts represent the food and poverty thresholds, which increased by 11.1 percent from the first semester of 2009 to the first half of 2012, the statistical board said.
The food threshold is the minimum income required by an individual to meet his basic food needs and satisfy the nutritional requirements set by the Food and Nutrition Research Institute, while remaining economically and socially productive.
The poverty threshold incorporates basic non-food needs, such as clothing, housing, transportation, health, and education expenses.
The latest NSCB report said 10 percent of Filipino families were living in extreme poverty, not significantly different from 2006 or 2009.
The statistical board estimated that it would cost the government P79.7 billion to “eradicate” poverty in the first semester of 2012, almost double the budget of the Social Welfare and Development Department’s budget of P39.4 billion for its conditional cash transfer or dole program.
Albert said it would take a while for the government’s dole program to work.
“Many analysts recognize that the full impact of the CCT program will take a while to be felt – this is a case not unique to the Philippines alone but a general phenomenon across countries undertaking such interventions,” he said.
The NSCB said that the provinces with the least incidence of poverty were Metro Manila (5.4 percent), Bataan, Benguet, Bulacan, Laguna, Pampanga, Rizal and Ilocos Norte.
The Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao had the highest incidence of poverty at 46.9 percent.
Other provinces with a high incidence of poverty were Apayao, Davao Oriental, Masbate, Northern Samar, Sultan Kudarat and Zamboanga del Norte.
Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan said that security problems in the provinces of Mindanao greatly affected the poverty incidence in these areas.
Benjamin Diokno of the UP School of Economics and Budget secretary during the Estrada administration said the latest figures showed that the strong economic growth in 2010 and 2012 were not enough to extricate many people from the poverty trap.
He also noted that development was uneven, with poverty worsening in Mindanao.
“The government has to focus on job creation. Manufacturing has to be revived and agriculture has to be modernized. But there are important necessary conditions for the first to happen. First, ensure affordable, sufficient and reliable power supply. Second, keep the peso competitive. Philippine exports are struggling because of the strong peso,” Diokno said. With Maricel V. Cruz and Anna Leah Estrada
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