Being poor

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By Godofredo M. Roperos

Politics also

Thursday, May 8, 2014


ONE of the political “virtues” valued by politicians, and one that is in the list of the most important topics to discuss in campaign speeches, is the poverty of the majority of our people.

It has been said that about 80 percent of our nation’s cash in circulation is enjoyed by only about 20 percent of our population. Inversely, 80 percent of our people enjoy the balance of only 20 percent of our nation’s money in circulation.

These were the statistical figures that our politicians possessed and enjoyed bandying around in the campaign trail more than three decades ago. I recall these data because I was handing them out as part of the national statistics we were giving out to whoever sought social and economic information about our country.

We were, then and now, a poor nation with lopsided development.

Well, if the statistics were true, then 80 percent of the nation’s cash was presumably in banks--time deposits, in safe boxes and ATMs--or in cash boxes in the homes of those who belonged to the 80 percent of the country’s financial elite.

This was then the social reality of the Philippines more than a quarter of a century ago. Thus, the fact that a great majority of Filipinos live below the poverty line means that we were politically impoverished.

But let it not be said that we are a poor country. Our people just do not know how to develop and share the country’s rich resources. Perhaps, the time would come when people who are the real stake holders of the nation would finally awaken from their deep political slumber and assert themselves, to claim back the country that they lost by default.

However, this phase in our history might be closing.

A couple of days ago, there was this front page story about the “Pantawid” program of the administration of President Noynoy Aquino. It is designed to help the poor cross over to the better side of the economic situation.

The program extended financial assistance to poor families with school children so the parents could send the kids to school up to age 15. But this is being expanded to include now the ages of 16 to 18 years old.

Consequently, a reported P1 billion was released for the purpose. The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), which has been designated as the “flagship” government agency of the program, will soon come up with a list of those who qualify as beneficiaries, meaning the “poor or near-poor” families. The DSWD estimates that the beneficiaries could reach one million households in Central Visayas alone.

But there are many people, friends and acquaintances we encountered in the last couple of days who expressed doubts about the program. They likened the “Pantawid” to similar projects of past administrations, such as the Masagana 99 and Masaganang Maisan. These were initially popular “but died political deaths afterwards.” They believe that after it has outgrown its political usefulness, “Pantawid” will just fade away.

But hope always becomes lasting and true, if it genuinely stays useful to the poor among us.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on May 09, 2014.

Opinion

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