Winning the fight against poverty

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By Neil Honeyman

An Independent View

Wednesday, May 7, 2014


AT LONG last it seems that the proportion of poor Filipinos is declining. Inclusivity in the nation’s economic growth is now a reality.

The newly-formed Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) reports that 24.9 percent of Filipinos are still considered poor, based on their average income in the first half of 2013. This is down from 27.9 percent of Filipinos below the poverty line in 2012.

To assess poverty levels, PSA is now using the Annual Poverty Indicator Survey (APIS) which has replaced the triennial Family Income and Expenditure Survey (FIES). Hopefully, the more frequent monitoring of poverty data will improve government decision-making relating to poverty reduction.

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Nevertheless the government will have failed to meet the Millennium Development Goal which is to reduce poverty incidence by 50 percent between 2000 and 2015. In the case of the Philippines this means 33.2 percent to 16.6 percent. Our poverty rate will still be over 20 percent in 2015.

Poor families saw their income levels improve during 2013. The poorest 10 percent experienced a rise of 12.3 percent in family income last year.

This shows the importance of job generation which should be a feature of the recently announced Philippine Development Plan (PDP).

Poverty reduction is also a result of the broader implementation of the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) scheme which, by the end of this year, will encompass 3.7 million families.

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SSS plays a key role in the fight against poverty, particularly amongst the elderly. Payments for retirees increased by 12.5 percent in 2013 according to SSS.

As a nation, we are currently in good shape demographically with a median age of under 30. This means that SSS assets should be growing rapidly, which indeed they are.

Nevertheless the total assets of SSS are P385 billion which corresponds to only around P12,000 per member. In contrast, Norway’s equivalent has over $1 million [P45 million] per member. We are nowhere near first world status yet.

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Next week, PNoy is scheduled to inaugurate the P1.9-billion, 19.4-megawatt solar power plant in San Carlos City. We hope the City of Smells will give him a warm welcome.

The problems encountered by San Carlos Bioenergy Inc. (SCBI) have been long-standing, though the malodorousness has become significantly worse recently. SCBI generates at least P1 billion annually for the local economy. This has successfully reduced poverty. SCBI is a well-regarded organization.

We do, however, seek to have poverty reduction without an increase in pollution, particularly in what is supposed to be an environmentally-friendly renewable energy industry.

Is this too much to ask?

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on May 07, 2014.

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