A third-quarter survey of the Social Weather Stations has revealed that the number of Filipino families who consider themselves poor has grown.
Polling 1,200 heads of households, the SWS found that 55 percent of the respondents rated themselves as poor, higher than the 52 percent average in the four quarters of last year.
The most significant increases were in Metro Manila and the rest of Luzon. The number of Metro Manilans who consider themselves poor was 43 percent, a six percent climb from June.
The self-poverty rating in Luzon’s other regions also rose seven points, from 45 percent to 52 percent.
The situation is the opposite in Mindanao and the Visayas, where the number of families who rated themselves as poor dropped.
There was a 10-point dip in Mindanao, to 61 percent, and a nine-point slip in the Visayas, to 65 percent.
Another key finding of the survey concerns the self-rated poverty threshold, which is the monthly budget for home expenses poor households believe they needed to maintain to stay just above the poverty line.
The SWS said the self-rated poverty threshold in Metro Manila rose to P15,000, a P3,000 increase.
The threshold was unchanged at P10,000 in Balance Luzon, and slipped to P8,000 from P10,000 in the Visayas.
The SWS said the September threshold figures in Metro Manila, Balance Luzon and Mindanao “are at the highest levels ever reached in those areas, while the latest figure in the Visayas was previously surpassed in June 2014, when it was at P10,000,”
The survey also noted a significant increase in self-rated food poverty in Metro Manila and the rest of Luzon.
The survey results are serious enough to send up red flags, but they have not galvanized the government into action.
The Philippines is not exactly the role model for poverty alleviation. The economic growth the Aquino government brandishes as its biggest achievement has not improved the lives of the poor, much less significantly reduced their numbers.
Official government statistics bear this out. The National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB) has reported that the poverty incidence was 27.9 percent in the first semester of 2012, hardly changed from the previous five years.
The lack of change does not surprise Norio Usui, the senior country economist for the Asian Development Bank. “The benefits of strong economic growth have not spilled over to the people because they still cannot find a job,” Mr. Usui observed last year.
He said the government must dramatically reduce the number of unemployed if it is to make inroads into easing poverty.
The government appears to be blind to the outlook of experts like Mr. Usui.
The reaction of Malacañang to the latest SWS survey belies its propensity to shrug off damaging statistics and paint them over with its own rosy numbers.
On Monday, presidential spokesman Herminio Coloma Jr. acknowledged the slight increase in self-rated poverty, but was quick to present figures from the Philippine Statistics Authority showing poverty incidence easing to 24.9 percent for the first semester of 2013 from 27.9 percent in the same period in 2012.
This supports the administration’s contention that “the proportion of extremely poor Filipino individuals who could not afford to meet basic food requirements, also declined during the period, from 13.4 percent in 2012 to 10.7 percent in 2013,” Mr. Coloma added.
The government, he said, “shall continue to focus on intensifying programs for poverty reduction and social protection including increasing the budget and coverage of the Conditional Cash Transfer program.”
The spokesman continued his spiel of glittering generalities, saying that P967.9 billion of the proposed 2015 national budget has been earmarked for social services, the biggest slice of the budget pie.
Once again, Malacañang is trying its best to downplay its failure to address the long-standing concerns of the poor.
Mr. Coloma, we are not impressed.