Nearly half of the Filipinos are poor, more than 25 percent are extremely poor, a terrible violation of human rights. Some weeks ago I explained that a “Social Market Economy,” which neither tolerates the inhuman consequences of purely profit-driven capitalism nor does it repeat the mistakes of socialist state-centralism, would be the concept of choice for sustainably overcoming poverty in the Philippines. The dignity of each human being is its core value, the market mechanism built on fair competition its main steering mechanism, a strong but subsidiary state, protecting openness and fairness of the markets and providing its citizens with a supportive framework for free and productive work and life in dignity, its guardian.
Cash distributed to the poor by government does not overcome poverty. It only makes them more dependent. It can even destroy the motivation of the recipients to work hard for better income.
Dignity comes with jobs.
We need more decent jobs to fight poverty. The State by itself cannot provide decent jobs directly to the majority of the poor people. This has been done mostly in centralized socialist systems, and the price the citizens have to pay in such systems, is loss of freedom, low productivity and poor services.
Jobs to overcome poverty cannot come from government. They mostly come from private investment and initiative. The state has to support private initiative and the efforts of citizens to invest and create jobs.
Open markets and fair competition; we have to level the playing field. The anti-trust law, which the Centrist Democrats have been successfully fighting for, has to be implemented now – against the national and local dynasties, monopolies and cartels.
Cut down the bureaucracy in the Philippines, one of the worst in the world, source of corruption and greatest obstacle for private initiative and investment.
Improve conditions for small and medium enterprises, deliver them from unbearable tax burdens and bureaucracies, support their access to credits.
Give priority to state funding of infrastructure in remote rural areas to improve living and production conditions there. And control the misuse of such funds by local families and representatives for their own benefit.
Set up a countrywide skills development program that gives access to technical and vocational training to youth in poor rural areas and provide them with hope and opportunities for decent work.
Set up a well-funded program in cooperation with the private sector, research institutions, schools and universities and international development partners on agricultural diversification and processing, including modern agro-industry and support for the modernization of agricultural cooperatives.
Give incentives and provide security against misuse of market power for job creating OFW investments in their home provinces.
Create Partnerships for Integrity and Job Creation between local governments, local business and civil society, leading to a culture of integrity, which is the best condition for local and foreign investments.
Create strong autonomous regions, which can connect local job creation with realistic plans for regional socio-economic development.
Not all citizens and families will be able to benefit within a short time from such an integrated program to promote job creation against poverty. Free and accessible quality health services for all people in need, and free quality education for children of poor families are additional measures to allow especially the children and young adults in very poor families to be able to develop their capacity for gaining employment or even creating jobs in the future by themselves in a prospering economy and not be excluded from it.
Finally: In each society there are citizens and families – i.e. people with disabilities, or chronic diseases, very old and lonesome people, orphans and children in families with only one parent – who, even with very effective job promotion policies of the government cannot use the opportunities of the markets to earn decent salaries. In a Social Market Economy they will not be left behind. The core value of human dignity includes every one. Effective systems of social assistance have to be set up for all citizens for whom the priority of self-help (as a consequence of the subsidiarity principle) does not provide humane solutions. The costs for such systems of social assistance can be covered by the contributions to social insurances and taxes from the economically stronger members of society—as concrete and touchable fruits of the principle of solidarity—due to their good opportunities of productive and profitable work in a Social Market Economy.
Dr. Peter Koeppinger is the current project director of the European Union – Konrad Adenauer Stiftung (EU-KAS) Philippines Partnerships for Integrity and Jobs Project (Project I4J). He is a former resident representative of the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung (KAS) in the Philippines (2009-2014), he served as one of the co-convenors of the Centrist Democratic Movement (CDM) of the Philippines in years 2010 to 2011 and has been the foreign political consultant of the Centrist Democratic Party of the Philippines: Ang Partido ng Tunay na Demokrasya (CDP) from its establishment in 2012 and at present. He is a member of the Board of Advisors of CDPI.