• The poor’s sorrier state

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    The very high prices of food wiped out the gains in per capita income. This situation could have been avoided especially in the case of rice, which is a staple food for low-income and vulnerable families, usually accounting for 20 percent of their budget. Just at the time when the world price of rice was declining, the domestic price of rice was skyrocketing.
    — Economic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan on increased poverty

    LET’S keep this simple. The State, headed by President Benigno Aquino 3rd, should apologize and make amends for making the poor worse off in three big ways.

    First, as summed up above by Economic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan, local food prices spiked in the first half of 2014, wiping out income gains for the poor and adding more than a million Filipinos to their ranks. This pain, he added, could have been avoided in the most important commodity, since global rice prices were falling then.

    Why did domestic costs surge when the world rate was down? Obviously, it’s because not enough cheaper imports were coming in to moderate local prices. For that, blame Manila’s truck ban, the molasses flow of cargo processing by the Bureau of Customs, and other port-congesting policies cited in the article, “If you care about jobs, prices and growth, read on,” published November 18 and 20.

    The surge in local staple prices offset higher incomes in the first half of last year, and that led to a 1.2 percentage point rise in poverty incidence to one-fifth of families and 25.8 percent of Filipinos. That’s some 1.2 million people dragged back into poverty by dearer rice — about one-fifth of the crowd at Pope Francis’s Luneta Mass.

    While food prices have moderated since last July, as cargo flow increased, congestion could return when the post-holiday lull in shipments ends this month. Plainly, governments national and local should work with the private sector to ensure that essential goods, especially rice, get through without delay and in ample quantities — even if the grain import figure makes a mockery of Aquino’s repeated claims of self-sufficiency in rice.

    And an apology from the Head of State for policies holding up vittles wouldn’t hurt.

    Stipends for the poor fall P6.5 billion
    The second state-inflicted scourge on the poor: monthly stipends under the much-hyped conditional cash transfer program were cut by one-third just when food prices soared. CCT disbursements last year fell by P6.5 billion to P14.3 billion, from nearly P21 billion in 2013, according to Secretary Balisacan’s report.

    Not only does this monumental failure to deliver assistance demand an equally gargantuan apology. The government, and especially Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Juliano-Soliman, must explain how and why the monthly money for indigent families fell woefully short.

    Plainly, this is a far more egregious misallocation than the P4 million wasted on a resort weekend for poor families to keep them away from the papal route along Roxas Boulevard. Let’s hope Congress sinks its teeth into the CCT slump, which afflicted far more Filipinos than even the Mamasapano massacre and its resulting Mindanao war.

    If the death of 44 police commandos is worth three official officials or more, surely the slashing of assistance to millions of poor families amid escalating food costs, should be accorded one or two reports, even if they make Secretary Soliman cry.

    And if it’s not too much to ask, a Palace apology for cutting cash for the poor.

    Crime doubles under Aquino
    The third scourge on the poor is soaring crime. Really? Recent SWS poll data doesn’t seem to square with that criticism. It reported that the percentage of families whose members suffered from any crime fell to an annual average of 7.5 percent in 2014, falling every year from a peak of 12.5 percent in 2010.

    But other numbers in the same survey show rising fear of crime since 2010. The average percentage of respondents who say people in their neighborhoods fear burglary climbed from 54 percent five years ago to 60 percent in 2013 and 59 percent last year.

    Those worried about unsafe streets rose from 43 percent average in 2010 to 49 percent last year. And concern about drug addicts, whose presence tends to accompany rising crime, increased to 52 percent of respondents last year, from 38 percent in 2010.

    Let’s look at statistics on actual crimes from the Philippine National Police. As our September 9, 2014, column, “Crime has doubled under Aquino. Here’s why”, reported:

    “Believe it or not, based on the true statistics, crime incidence has more than doubled under President Benigno Aquino 3rd.

    “Citing the corrected PNP data [not dubious official figures in 2011 and 2012), news website Rappler reported that crime volume for all of [2013]hit a record 631,406 incidents. That’s nearly double the 2010 figure, and almost three times the now doubtful 2012 data of 217,812. … From January to May [last]year, a total of 289,198 crimes were reported, up nearly 44,000 or 18 percent over the tally of 245,347 for the same five months in 2013.”

    The article also cited two reasons for rising crime, both sadly stemming from presidential appointments.

    Back in 2010, Aquino had the chance to put the PNP under then-Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo, who wiped out jueteng as Naga City mayor; and the Bureau of Customs under former BoC and revenue chief Guillermo Parayno, who computerized the agency and became IMF consultant for customs reform.

    But Aquino passed up both proven reformers. Jueteng and smuggling flourished, the latter jumping five-fold based on IMF data. Gaming payoffs corrupted police, and contraband included drugs and guns, as Aquino himself admitted in his 2013 State of the Nation Address.

    No wonder the people don’t feel as safe as before. Especially the poor who have to walk the streets day and night.

    Again, a presidential mea culpa for the crime surge would be in order. But don’t hold your breath.

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    10 Comments

    1. Tatang Ramos on

      Is this “buyer’s remorse”?

      Pinoys vote for an incompetent leader then pulls him/her back?

    2. Hector David on

      Mr Balisacan is totAlly lost .. Food takes out 60 to 70% of a poor family’s budget …the govt should wake up .. The rich are fleecing the poor by overcharging all utilities including tollways and fuel…… With the tacit approval of govt which looks the other way

      • jason bourne on

        Tama ka po.
        For example: Travel from Manila to Subic via tollways almost reaches 2,000 Pesos ! And to think that theses roads theold ones were already built during Marcos time !
        Ngayon, how about the ordinary Pinoys ?
        It seems these highways & tollways are made for the rich!
        Unlike our neighbours in ASEAN, their tollways are much better planned and a lot cheaper !

    3. Amnata Pundit on

      This idiot has a lot to be blamed for that is true, but is he to blame for everything, including the sins of past administrations? The yellow regime in its almost 30 years of reign criminally ignored food production and focused their energies and what little intellectual capital they had on MONEY MAKING projects only, including gold digging in National Shrines during the time of their revered Cory. The great economist GMA’s only contribution in the agricultural sector was the fertilizer scam! Her greatest accomplishment in good government was her three years of re-enacted budget, which served as the inspiration for this Boy Sayad’s DAP. It is the height of deceptive sophistry to blame the yellow regime’s utter failure in practically all areas of governance on this retardate alone. All the problems you mentioned are the result of the yellow regime’s ineptness, insincerity, treason and just plain hypocrisy. All the yellows are to blame, period.

    4. E. G. Festin on

      If de facto president Aquino is indeed crazy or at least so psychiatrically and psyhological impaired that he frreezes and behaves irrationally in the face of crises, why should an “I’m sorry” from him matter?
      I ask the same question to former President FVR whose advise to BS Aquino is your No. 1 headline today. Although FVR did attack him for being an Abnoy

    5. Despite the claim of BS Aquino’s spin doctors that our economy is booming, thanks mainly to the $25 billion yearly OFWs remittances and booming call centers, the economic benefits have not trickled down to the poor. The number of poor have increased by 1.2 million, with the poor now numbering to more than half of the population. Many poor are trying to survive on $1 or less a day. Maybe, BS Aquino and her Welfare Secretary Soliman should try to survive on one dollar a day for a month so they would understand how it feels to be hungry.

      Why is the price of rice still high despite Philippines huge imports of rice? Because the imports are overpriced for kickbacks, and this overprice is passed on the consumers. For lack of aids to our rice farmers, our rice production fails time and again to hit targets. Also, as the author mentioned, the Conditional Cash Transfers, instead of being increased, had been reduced by P6.5 billion yearly. (There had been reports that many supposedly recipients of the CCT have not received their cash allotments; this anomaly should be investigated.)

      While many countries have provided FREE healthcare and university education like Cuba, Costa Rica, Chile, Denmark, Norway and many others, the Philippines remains one of the dinosaur countries which refuse to give these benefits to their citizens, thus exacerbating extreme poverty in the Philippines.

      • jason bourne on

        We should stop these CCT once and for all. For two reasons.

        1) CCT keeps the people Poor by making them Mendicants ” Parang Nanglilimos ang mga Tao”.
        “Keep Them Poor, Barefoot and Pregnant” comes to mind.
        – Instead lets pay these guys to clean up the stinking Pasig River, the canals/esteros. Let’s pay the women money NOT to get pregnant.
        Let’s pay the people to build houses & roads & water wells in slum areas/redevelop areas.
        By doing so, we give them Dignity – Sa tingin ko mas tatanggapin ng isang Pinoy ang pera kung may kapalit din siyang na-idulot na trabaho. Iyong mga taong Tamad lang ang gusto ng libreng pera.

        2. Corruption, Bribery & Electioneering – all in one and it also seems “Unlimited” in its scope. My golly these is OUR TAX money being given away by politicians of dubious intentions. It is such a waste of resources.

    6. In my wife’s province of pangasinan, farmers are crying because while they have good harvest of onions, the price is very cheap to the point that the farmers could end up losing money. Apparently, at the time that the farmers are harvesting, the market is flooded with imported onions. Who the hell in the government did this to the farmers? How can our government officials allow this to happen? Pity the farmers.