Our banner story in our business page today reports that Western Visayas is the fifth largest economy outside NCR. True enough, tangible indicators are very visible at plain view. I have observed that big companies are actually thriving in this region. In my month stay here in Bacolod I have seen how affluent the rich people really are but I have also shook hands and shared beer with the poorest of the poor. The gap between the haves and the have nots seemed to be extreme at this side of the region which makes me wonder just how inclusive is progress here.
A friend’s Facebook post caught my attention which very much relates to this concern. This was what my good friend Albert Daba posted way back:
“We should all just stop perpetuating the myth of trickle-down economics. Always attached to a news article talking about economic growth is the question of whether such growth trickles down to the poor. Everyday people ask why there are still people on the streets begging. The conclusion being that the rich get richer, the poor get poorer.
The Trickle Down theory doesn’t work.
Our economy is simply not designed to help the poor. Whatever increase we have in purchasing power we use to buy more stuff, which benefits the business folk. Their savings from our relatively low tax rates are barely reinvested back into the economy, but are mostly amassed and deposited in tax-free offshore accounts. They’re not evil people. It’s just human nature to protect wealth, and proof that trickle down theory would require some degree of altruism.
(You) want to improve the lives of those at the margins? Start buying from the mom and pop shops. Start paying the right amount of taxes. Invest in community cooperatives. Invest in businesses that pay people well. Start volunteering for your community.
There are a plethora of ways to improve the living conditions of our country’s poor. Merely expecting an automatic trickle down effect just because of a rising growth rate is not one of them.”
Daba’s assessment on the absence of inclusive growth on our economic progress hit bull’s eye even more now. It is indeed wrong to assume that good statistical numbers would translate to better living conditions for our poorer population and it is worth making an issue out of it. Growth should be inclusive otherwise it would have no transformative effect other than widening the gap between the rich and the poor.
History has had full of accounts that did not end well when the society fails to put the marginalized into the equation. There’s that French revolution, the industrial revolution, and of course our Philippine revolution. When the gap worsens, the human instinct to survive will always surface. Good if it gets manifested through a well-planned movement such as peaceful revolutions, but in most cases it is not like that. Usually those are only the climax, there is still that stage where crimes of poverty would rocket and sometimes it remains there. If we look closer to the news, most crimes committed are crimes of poverty.
So why should we care about inclusive growth? Because we will still all be affected whichever end of the spectrum we sit. And how do we do that? It’s not bad to start with Daba’s suggestion – invest in community cooperatives.