• Philippines plans to lift millions out of poverty

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    The Philippines said Friday it was aiming to lift more than 10 million people out of poverty in less than two years, and make an enduring impact on lessening one of Asia’s worst rich-poor divides.

    The government has set a target of cutting the number of people living in poverty to 16.6 percent by the end of 2015, down from 27.9 percent last year, Socio-Economic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan said.

    “It’s a big challenge. We just don’t have the luxury of time and the luxury of resources to waste,” Balisacan told reporters.

    The ambitious goal is set ahead of when Aquino is required to stand down in in mid-2016 after a six-year term.

    It comes after stunning economic growth, credit rating upgrades and record stock market highs in the first half of Aquino’s term failed to make a dent on crushing poverty.

    Even though the Philippines had the fastest growth rate in Asia of 7.8 percent in the first quarter of this year, the unemployment rate rose to a three-year-high of 7.5 percent in April.

    The number of people living in poverty — defined as living on 62 US cents a day or less — had also largely remained the same.

    Last year 27.9 percent of the country was classified as living in poverty compared to 28.8 and 28.6 percent in 2006 and 2009 respectively.

    That means more than 25 million currently live in poverty.

    The Philippines has long had one of the biggest rich-poor divides in Asia, with a remarkably small number of families dominating politics and business.

    While the Aquino administration has always aimed to create more inclusive growth, Balisacan said the government was “recalibrating” after the recent economic performance failed to make a big impact on poverty.

    “We are learning the lesson of the last three years,” he said.

    The economy remains largely reliant on services and consumption, fuelled by the huge remittances of almost 10 million Filipinos working overseas.

    Balisacan said that, as part of the remodelling efforts, the government would sharply increase spending on infrastructure to create immediate jobs and make areas more attractive for investment.

    The government is specifically targeting ports, airports and roads.

    Overall spending on infrastructure will rise from the equivalent of 2.5 percent of the Philippines’ economy in 2012 to five percent by 2016, according to Balisacan.

    He said the government would also continue to ramp up spending on social services.

    One key focus is a “conditional cash-transfer” scheme where the country’s poorest families are given money if various health and education requirements are met, such as keeping children in school.

    He said the government was maintaining its forecast of 6.0-7.0 percent economic growth this year, rising to 7.0-8.0 percent in 2015.

    AFP

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    1. How do you lift millions out of poverty? I hope to lift one out of poverty by providing employment to one new domestic worker (DW) in my household. She hails from one of distant small islands in Central Phil — 37 years, widowed with 2 grown up children, claims she had worked as DW in metro manila & suburbs on several short-term stints. At provl minimum wage of P2,000 monthly, she demands P3,000 (without prior demonstration of her skills) monthly wage plus all the perks (upfront a bath soap, toothbrush, toothpaste etc), and to top it all — on her second day of employment (she arrived yesterday 4 p.m. together with the recruiter whose recruitment fee is at P1,500) demands she be paid advance her one-month salary so she could buy a cell phone! And she will work only for 4 months because she goes home in December for vacation. And her work in my household takes only half a day while she spends the rest of the day watching tv (which she could better utilize to tend the plants [not in her scope of work] or other productive hobbies). Now you tell me … does she belong to the poor that government wants to lift out of poverty?! How many of the poor 25 million are deserving of your generosity and charity?!