Sector says government poverty-reduction efforts not enough

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Wednesday, October 17, 2012


BAGUIO CITY—The social enterprise sector rallies government to recognize its relevance as providers of innovative solutions to social issues unaddressed and unmet by government and the market economy. This was announced in a press forum held by the Foundation for Sustainable Society (FSSI) yesterday.

“Despite the superfluous and overlapping programs of government at all levels to catapult the poor to cross the poverty line, the country is marginalized and continues to live in social and economic deprivation. It is about time to seriously recognize and consider social entrepreneurship as one of the sustainable solutions to this never ending dilemma,” Miriam Azurin, Advocacy Manager of the FSSI stressed during the forum.

The FSSI is currently the Co-Convener of the Poverty Reduction Through Social Entrepreneurship (PRESENT) Coalition that is at the forefront of the advocacy.

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“The reason why poverty eradication and reduction programs and solutions have failed is due to the program's inability to scale up the marginalized sector's capabilities to manage their own resources and take an active and pivotal role in the upliftment of their situations. Government templates and market solutions have repeatedly treated the poor as mere suppliers, clients, workers who are at the disadvantaged end of an economic value chain,” said Rep. Teodoro Casiño, Chairman of the House Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship Development (SBED).

House Bill 6085 or the Magna Carta for Social Enterprises authored by Representatives Erin Tañada, JV Ejercito, Cresente Paez and Teodoro Casiño. It has been approved by the SBED Committee in principle and is up for amendments.

Social enterprises are wealth creating organizations that have double or triple bottom line (social, economic and environmental that engage the poor through transactional and transformational services and goals. These are businesses with a mission that develop the poor farmers, fisherfolks, indigenous peoples, persons with disabilities improve their capabilities and become active actors in their own poverty upliftment.

Azurin cited government failure in providing jobs and improving the lives of persons with disabilities (PWDs). Since jobs are not available to this sector, the Federation of These-abled Persons Inc. (FTI) had organized themselves into cooperatives, trained PWDs to construct school chairs for the Department of Education, manufacture wheel chairs and create innovative educational toys. Now they are engaged in several contracts with the DepEd for such commodities and are earning profits, providing employment and transformed PWDs into confident and productive workers and co-owners of their enterprises.

In the area of agrarian reform beneficiaries, there have been numerous successful ventures of these farmers in Negros Occidental who are now engaged in exporting muscovado sugar and bananas to solidarity markets in Japan, US, Korea and Europe. They are now owners and partners in these enterprises and have accrued savings that had been reinvested into other enterprises in their communities. The farmers of the Negros Occidental Farmers Federation (NOFTA) earn dividends and incomes that they have never earned as mere farm hands and workers in haciendas or suppliers to some big corporations.

“We want more of these developments and we want government to play a major role in this social enterprise movement by approving HB 6085 and going beyond the small, medium enterprises lens which have failed. Traditional business is not the way to go, we need to create jobs and open windows of opportunities where the poor can take an active not passive role in the economic value chain of their specific enterprises. This is real social inclusion that the Aquino administration should seriously implement," Azurin explained.

HB 6085 provides incentives to social entrepreneurs in the way of allowing non-collateralized loans with a guarantee fund pool. This will help grow social enterprises and allow them windows to level up with major players in their own commodity and services sector.

Magnitude of poor population increased from 22.2 million (3.67 million families) in 2006 to 23.1 million (3.86 million) in 2009 based on government data.

There are about 30,000 social enterprises around the country based on studies by the Institute for Social Entrepreneurship in Asia (ISEA) operating through various legal forms as cooperatives, NGO-assisted organizations, microfinance institutions, micro small and medium enterprises registered as stock corporations, partnership or single proprietorship, community finance institutions, and people’s organizations.

FSSI is a social investing organization supporting and funding social enterprises using funds from a debt-to-development program implemented with the Swiss Confederation that started in 1995. In Luzon alone, FSSI provides social investments to 16 partners in Luzon engaged in dairy, microfinance, organic fertilizer production, feed milling, coffee and coco coir.

Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on October 18, 2012.

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