The country’s approved budget for 2024 earmarks a whopping P450 billion for ayuda to poor families. Indeed, many families need the aid to tide them over the hard times 2024 promises to be. Still, I must tag and knock it as a non-solution to the nation’s problem of mass poverty. It is essentially a stop-gap measure that detracts from the direct strike the country needs to take at the structural roots of poverty.
Notwithstanding claims to the contrary by the President, government dole outs lead to people’s dependency and loss of humanity due to two countervailing local preconditions.
The government is expected to take care of the relative few who, for one reason or another, remain poor even when it has accomplished its twin tasks of setting up equitable socio-economic structures and enabling citizens to help themselves through provisions mainly of comprehensive health care and universal basic education. But the fact that roughly half the population of the Philippines consider themselves poor is a sure indication that government, and this is the number one precondition, has neither made good on its responsibility of setting up equal opportunity structures nor enabled citizens to help themselves. Like, how many have to go abroad to get a living-wage-paying job? How many have no access to enabling healthcare and education?
Precondition number two is patronage politics muddying up implementation. The listing-qualifying of recipients and the distribution of the ayuda are left to elected LGU (local government unit) officials who prioritize their ward leaders and known supporters. I suspect this is the reason why only those who have voted in one, two or three elections can avail themselves of the aid.
So, is it really ayuda for the poor? If the poor are required to have voted, is this not vote-buying in disguise? Anyway, what about poor people who for one valid reason or another could not vote? What about poor seniors who were in hospital on election day? And, isn’t requiring the poor to vote to get aid a form of coercion, a violation of the principle of free elections?
Ayuda, especially the massive variety, is a stop-gap measure and no solution to poverty. Government has to restructure the economy so living-wage-paying jobs are available. Citizens must also be empowered, mainly through comprehensive health care and universal education, to avail themselves of the opportunities an equitable system offers. Filipinos should not have to go abroad and slave for foreign masters to feed their families, often at the price of a broken home and delinquent children.
Self-sufficiency, not dependency, is the name of the game. And the way to get there is not ayuda but structures of equal opportunity and empowerment. Without an inclusive socio-economic structure and empowerment programs, ayuda puts people on an endless spiral of dependency. At some point in the process they lose their humanity and become mere pawns in the game politicians play.