Beyond hype

IT SEEMS that whatever economic growth that has been achieved has failed to improve the lives of the people. The recent Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey showed that the unemployment rate rose to 27.5 percent, or an estimated 12.1 million, as 2.5 million Filipinos joined the ranks of the jobless between September and December last year.

The unemployment rate was six percentage points higher than the 21.7 percent (some 9.6 million) in the previous quarter. The unemployment rate soared even as the economy surprisingly grew 7.2 percent, the second-fastest after China's, showing that the economic growth was not inclusive.

Last year, the National Statistical Coordination Board report shows that the percentage of Filipinos living below poverty line remained practically the same between 2006 and 2012. Extreme poverty was pegged at 10 percent, almost the same rate since 2006. This refers to families earning P5,458 monthly and are hard up to meet their basic food needs.

The NSCB said that to be able to meet the basics, including provision for clothing, housing, transportation, health and education, families have to earn P7,821 to be considered as living in poverty.

The conditional cash transfer program hardly made a dent. CCT programs are targeted to poor or extremely poor households and are usually addressed to the female head of the recipient households that includes a nutrition component that provides cash transfers and nutrition supplements to children and to pregnant and lactating women.

One presumption embedded in the CCT approach is that the supply of social services for education and health is in place and that stimulating demand through income transfers is necessary to induce major changes in human capital investment but this is absent from the country's version of implementation.

More than allocating resources for the flagship program, there is also a need to integrate changes in policy measures, review in development priorities and resource allocation to ensure significant changes. Reflecting on these areas could answer the question on why economic growth did not improve lives.

Any investment hype cannot cover up the real need for reforms in economic policies that will ensure that growth becomes inclusive and not a far off dream for the majority. Good governance includes providing opportunities for citizens to be able to have a good start in life through adequate and affordable education, quality health care; housing opportunities and provision of livelihood that would enable everyone to fend for themselves and improve their own lives.

As long as government hinges the survival of the country on the dollar remittances of those who are working abroad and on the extractive investments, nothing much can be expected.

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