• Poverty reduction lags far behind GDP gains

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    The Philippines continues to face the challenge of reducing poverty in the country despite the economy’s robust growth so far, according to the government-initiated and United Nations-funded Fifth Progress Report on the Millennium Development Goals (MDG).

    Released on Wednesday by the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), the Report concluded some progress has been made in reducing extreme poverty in the country, but not fast enough to achieve the targeted rate of reduction before the MDG deadline next year.

    Based on the official poverty thresholds, the report noted that income poverty has declined from 34.4 percent in 1991 to 25.2 percent in 2012, while first semester data for 2013 shows a 3-percentage point reduction compared to the data for the first semester of 2012.

    However, the report said this is still far from the MDG target of 17.2 percent by 2015 as natural calamities and economic shocks within the past few years have affected the rate of poverty reduction.

    “The natural calamities and other man-made shocks would tend to move the non-poor into poverty and the poor into deeper poverty, thereby undermining poverty reduction efforts,” it stated.

    The report also pointed out that recent economic growth has not translated to lower unemployment as the jobless rate has been flat at about 7 percent since 2011, prompting many to regard the economic phenomenon as “jobless growth.”

    In addition to access to jobs, it also noted that the quality of available jobs has not been adequate to address the poverty situation.

    “Having a job does not guarantee living above the poverty line. In 2009, about 22 percent of those employed are living below the national poverty threshold. The data for the period 2003-2009 indicate an increasing trend in the proportion of the employed population living below the poverty line,” the report explained.

    The report underscored that sustained economic growth and more focused poverty reduction efforts are necessary to achieve the target of halving extreme poverty by 2015.

    With respect to the impact of natural calamities, NEDA suggested climate change adaptation efforts need to be accelerated as part of the poverty reduction drive, noting that extreme changes in weather patterns are becoming the new norm and that government needs to intensify the institutionalization of adaptation and mitigation measures, particularly at the local levels.

    “The challenges ahead and the urgency to achieve the MDGs reinforce the role of every stakeholder in the development process,” Socioeconomic Planning and NEDA Director General Arsenio Balisacan said.

    Balisacan said the Philippine Development Plan (PDP) 2011-2016 Midterm Update is paving the way for the government’s post-MDG initiatives by putting in place spatial and sector-focused strategies for the Plan period.

    “With less than 500 days to the MDG deadline, ‘business as usual’ is no longer the practice. What we need is a strong and unified determination from all sectors, at the national and local levels, for our country to make good on our Millennium promise,” he said.

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