"Foster high-quality job creation and boost human capital investment, according to the World Bank."
If we’re to set great store by the latest report of the World Bank, we will have fewer poorer Filipinos starting in 2020, with the poverty rate falling below 20 percent.
This year, the international financing institution projects the poverty level at 20.8 percent, down from 26 percent in 2015. It had estimated poverty incidence in the Philippines at 24.5 percent for 2016, 23.1 percent for 2017 and 21.9 percent for 2018.
The latest poverty incidence figure is equivalent to 23.1 million poor Filipinos, down from the 28.8 million below the poverty threshold three years ago.
With our current population pegged at 104 million, almost 21 million of the total number of Filipinos are still living in poverty today. But poverty incidence would further decline to 19.8 percent next year and 18.7 percent in 2021.
The World Bank attributes the decline in poverty incidence since 2015 to, among others, the government’s cash transfer schemes which helped cushion the impact of negative shocks on the economy. The 12-year-old conditional cash transfer scheme called Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) slashed the nationwide poverty rate by 1.2-1.5 percentage points (ppt) between 2012 and 2015. 4Ps also reduced income inequality by 0.5-0.6 ppt in the same period.
Other factors that have led to lower poverty rates in recent years are the continuous expansion of non-agriculture wage employment, rising real wage, continuation of social programs, and stabilizing inflation.
So what else should be done by the Philippine government to uplift the lives of poor Filipinos?
For the World Bank, the Duterte administration should foster high-quality job creation and boost human capital investment to enhance the impact of economic growth on poverty reduction and shared prosperity.
To increase the growth impact on poverty and inequality, targeted investments and supportive business regulations are also needed in industries and sectors that generate high-quality jobs.
Apart from all these, the government should increase human capital investments in education and health. By enhancing training and skills development, workers would stay competitive in a fast-changing global work environment.
These are sound recommendations, from where we sit, and the administration’s economic managers would do well to implement the needed reforms to make sustained economic growth to benefit those living on the margins of society.
Low quality of life
While the World Bank sees bright prospects for the country in the coming years, we should really accelerate efforts to propel economic growth, starting in the urban centers.
Another international lending institution, Deutsche Bank, paints a disturbing picture of the quality of life of Filipinos, particularly in Manila, our capital city.
Recent research by the bank revealed that Manila is 3rd among 56 cities with lowest quality of life.
In its May 2019 report, Deutsche Bank said the top three cities with the lowest quality of life are Lagos, Nigeria; Beijing, China; and Manila, Philippines. On the other hand, the cities with the highest quality of life are Zurich, Switzerland; Wellington, New Zealand; and Copenhagen, Denmark.
The study ranked Manila 53rd in terms of purchasing power, 46th in safety index, 45th in both health care index and property price-to-income ratio, 51st in traffic commute time, 54th in pollution index, and 47th in climate index. In the cost-of-living index, Manila ranked 10th out of 56 countries but lagged in terms of net monthly salary as it ranked 50th out of 55 cities. The report found that the net monthly salary in Manila dropped to $480 in 2019 from $498 in 2018.
These findings should be a wake-up call for Manila Mayor Isko Moreno to work double-time in uplifting the quality of life of Manila residents within his term. That’s what his constituents—and the rest of Filipinos—would like to see.
Homage to Nene Pimentel
We join the rest of the nation in mourning the passing of former Senator Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel Jr.
We volunteered to work for his vice presidential bid in the 1992 elections because we knew him as a consistent critic of authoritarianism under martial law and a fierce defender of human rights, along with his teammate, the late Senator Jovito Salonga. But sadly, these credentials failed to pass muster with the electorate after the Cory presidency.
Senator Nene was a vigorous advocate of federalism and clearly explained his views on this issue in different news venues, including the Saturday Forum @Annabel’s which we moderated for six and a half years. He will be sorely missed.