PRESIDENT BS Aquino can proudly claim that these last three years, in the first quarter of 2016, poverty incidence (the percentage of poor people in our population) dropped by 1.6 percent to 26.3 percent. Three years ago, the corresponding figure was 27.9 percent.
This is a great achievement. Especially if one remembers that in April 2013, which was 34 months after PNoy became President of our country, 1.32 million Filipinos became poor and were added to the poverty incidence count. In April three years ago, the population of the Philippines was still below 100 million (it was only 98.6 million then), and more than 27.59 million Filipinos were poor.
Of course, the improvement is disappointingly low. After all, during these years of PNoy’s presidency, Philippine GDP growth has continued its northward trajectory that was set during the presidency of Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
The fact is that – as Ibon Foundation has painfully stated because its surveys show so – the years of the Aquino Administration’s matuwid na daan has hardly dented the poverty prevalence in the Philippines.
Surveys after surveys show that two out of every three Filipinos consider themselves “poor”; about 24 percent consider themselves “not poor,” while a little less than 10 percent were either unsure or offered no response. And almost similar statistics show that a great number of people admit having experienced hunger because they had nothing to eat.
The results stand in stark contrast, as they almost always do, to official government estimates of poverty prevalence. In most reports of the official Family Income and Expenditure Survey (FIES), poverty incidence is estimated to be just 26 percent, with 10.5 percent falling below the subsistence threshold. But most of us know the reality.
An analyst has warned that “it should be of grave concern to the Aquino Administration and anyone who hopes to succeed President BS Aquino 3rd that for all the rhetoric about ‘Tuwid na Daan’ and ‘inclusive growth,’ two-thirds of the country still feel they are disadvantaged. And circumstances such as the lagging recovery from calamities such as Typhoon Yolanda, the persistently high cost of power, deteriorating transportation infrastructure, and expensive, unreliable services such as water and internet, suggest those feelings are not at all misplaced.”
The warning also says that “two-thirds of the Filipino people feel they are no better off and perhaps even worse off than they were before Aquino took office.”
Some of our columnists and reporters are seeing that despite the apparent calm, there is restiveness in our land.
This restiveness is due mainly to the poverty and difficult life that most Filipinos are experiencing, despite the glowing international praise of the BS Aquino regime’s economic growth. But it can be abetted by any shenanigans in the coming elections.
Not just the left-leaning Ibon, but Pope Francis himself and Central Bank Governor Tetangco have stressed the need for inclusive growth.
Great GDP growth must not only serve the elite and the business and industrial interests here and abroad. Economic growth must serve the people above all.