Poverty level remains unchanged since 2006

A young scavenger collect recyclable items from a garbage dump site. This photo is a symbol of non-ending story of poverty in our country.

A young scavenger collect recyclable items from a garbage dump site. This photo is a symbol of non-ending story of poverty in the Philippines.

The Philippines’ well-known survey firm, the Social Weather Station released its latest data on poverty level of our country where 52% of sampled Filipino families—equivalent to some 10.6 million families—described themselves as “poor” in March, down from 54% or 10.9 million families in December.

The same survey also noted that 39 percent of respondents or 7.9 million families classify themselves as food-poor, down from 44 percent or 8.9 million families in the last survey.

The SWS noted “significant gains” in in Mindanao, where self-rated poverty fell by 19 points to 53 percent and self-rated food poverty fell 20 points to 43 percent in December. In Metro Manila, however, self-rated poverty and food poverty scores stayed at 42 and 28 percent respectively. In the balance of Luzon, poverty rose by seven points to 50 percent and food poverty rose by two points to 36 percent. Poverty in the Visayas rose three points to 65 percent while food poverty fell by eight to 46 percent.

The survey showed that the median poverty threshold, or the monthly budget below which a household  considered itself poor, rose to P15,000 in Metro Manila and to P10,000 in the Visayas. It fell to P8,000 in the balance of Luzon and Mindanao. On the other hand, the median food-poverty thresholds were P8,000 in Metro Manila, P5,000 in the Visayas, and P4,000 in the rest of Luzon and Mindanao.

The SWS survey involved face-to-face interviews with 1,200 household heads nationwide. Error margins of ±3% for national and ±6% for area percentages applied to the survey.

Despite of slight improvements from previous December data, the self-rated poverty and food poverty rates have remain unchanged since 2006. These rates reflect that the programs of the government on poverty alleviation have not worked as expected, in spite of 5-6% annual GDP growth for the past 7 years. Urban poor groups like the National Urban Poor Sectoral Council, a coalition of urban poor groups through their secretary general Emmanuel Manato, told through GMA News Online that “The survey is not real according to our urban poor sector”, “In fact, the poor people have been increasing, lack of job opportunities are still there and prices have kept increasing”.

These sentiments of the urban poor should be given a priority by our government on how to significantly reduce the poverty incidence rate. The government keeps trumpeting about the rise of the Philippine Stock Exchange Index and other appreciations from foreign companies, governments, or individuals, but these “achievements” according to our government cannot be felt in the near future by an ordinary Juan de la Cruz unless the government realize the need to improve our cost-of doing businesses here in our country as several stumbling blocks on doing business or job creation deteriorates the poverty problem in our country while prices keep increasing. The more prices are increasing while millions are unemployed means they are more vulnerable to price changes. Giving them meaningful jobs to these unemployed people for agriculture, manufacturing, mining, or oil and gas extraction can cushion them from volatile price changes.  The government should not rely anymore on short-term and failed poverty alleviation like the Conditional-Cash Transfer where the intention is to give conditional cash to qualified poor families in exchange of requiring their children to attend school classes, parents have to work menial jobs like cleaning streets, and others. The government should not be in complacent mode, blaming the previous administration for their shortcomings, wasting the taxpayer’s money to finance candidates for the coming elections, and swindling the money for the enrichment of several politicians.