NGO: Poor not feeling economic gains

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Sunday, May 25, 2014


POOR people, including underpaid workers and the unemployed, have nothing to gain from the World Economic Forum (WEF), held in the Philippines this week to explore developments in East Asia.

But the WEF “is not about people. It’s all about corporations, their investments, and new market opportunities,” said Dennis Derige, spokesperson of the Partido ng Manggagawa (PM) in Cebu.

He opined that even if President Benigno Aquino III praised the role of “ordinary Filipinos” in the country’s economic turnaround, the WEF’s agenda would remain dominated by “business elites and governments that practice crony capitalism.”

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Making growth more inclusive has surfaced as the key theme of the recently concluded WEF. It is being explored as well in a related forum that opened yesterday in Cebu, where Sen. Benigno “Bam” Aquino IV pointed out that poverty levels have remained static despite rapid economic growth in recent years.

‘Unfair’ ratio

Derige said that growth in Asia has created more billionaires, yet remains “highly unequal”. Rather than celebrating the Philippines—whose economy grew the second-fastest in Asia in 2013, after China—as an economic miracle, Derige said he would rather see it as the same story of a handful of business elites controlling more than half of the economy.

He cited a PM study that reportedly showed the combined wealth for the Philippines’s richest 10, estimated at US$45.3 billion, is equal to the annual income of 21 million minimum wage earners.

“The Philippine Government cannot claim inclusive growth until this ratio of inequality is effectively reversed,” said Derige.
ILO estimate

If people were mentioned in the WEF at all, he added, it was in “the context of markets: open markets for corporate products and cut-price and flexible labor markets for their efficient operations.”

“Thus, the WEF cannot brag about wonders and miracles when Asia remains the biggest home to the world’s poorest people epitomized by workers in vulnerable employment,” Derige said.

He cited an International Labor Organization (ILO) estimate that 1.1 billion persons or 62.2 percent of all workers in Asia have only “vulnerable employment.”

These, he added, include informal workers and workers with seasonal or contractual jobs. (EOB)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on May 25, 2014.

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