IN MY column of January 25, 2009, I commented on the numerous accomplishments trumpeted by the GMA administration in full-page ads in all the national papers -- higher GDP growth, lower inflation, higher credit ratings, more tourism investments, more tourists, more car sales, income growth of top 1,000 corporations, more textbooks and classrooms, more roads, bridges, airports, RORO ports and more.

I asked what were the bottom line effects of those accomplishments on the fight against poverty and hunger of the teeming masses.

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Finally, I have the answers. Recently, Presidential Economic Adviser Joey Salceda was quoted in the papers as saying, “My biggest frustration is that 34 quarters of uninterrupted expansion in the past 9 years did little to reduce poverty and the number of poor people.”

He also cited data that showed that the number of poor people rose to 27.60 million in 2006 from 25.47 million in 2001. Further, the incidence of hunger nearly doubled from 11.4% in 2000 to 20.3% last year.

In contrast, the profits of the country’s top 1,000 corporations jumped 21% per year since Ms. Arroyo took power.

Finally, he went on to pass the blame, as most government people are wont to do, viz: "The oligarchies were just too sturdy as the state was weak..."

Well, what can I say? Now GMA's bright boys are clueless on why the economic growth was not enough to lift the well-being of the destitute.

Here's the common-sense analysis from a non-economist.

Salceda says that 74% of poor Filipinos are in the rural sector. That being so, anybody with an average intelligence will know that a huge chunk of government capital outlay should go there.

So how many percent of the annual budget from 2000 did they invest in the rural sector?

The rural sector is largely the agricultural sector. In turn, the agricultural sector is largely the rice farming sector. In rice farming, the investment that has the biggest effect in terms of productivity increase (and, consequently, increase in the poor farmers' incomes) is irrigation development.

So, logically, any government of this country that wants to make a significant dent in the fight against poverty and hunger-has to give very high priority to irrigation development.

Okay, what has been the government's track record in irrigation development? Per NIA's records, from 1993-2008, the national government has funded only 51% of NIA's proposed annual capital outlay for irrigation projects!

On the other hand, huge amounts went to roads, bridges, RoRo ports, tourism facilities, airports, telecom facilities, etc. But these don't have any significant direct economic benefit to the multitude of rice farming families nationwide who can barely afford to do any traveling outside of their barrios.

There it is Salceda, it is clear that the government's investments went mostly to projects that benefited urban populations and the provincial and municipal capitals, not the rural poor in the barrios. Your projects uplifted the income of the urbanites and the provincial populace; consequently, their increased buying power allowed them to lap up everything that the top 1,000 corporations sold.

The rural poor in the barrios? They largely got lost in the government's scheme of things. The economic trickle-down effect did not reach them.


Engineer Tabije, MBM, is an international consultant whose clients include the WB, the UN, the EC and the Jifca. Visit the writer’s website: . Email comments to: