Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 22:05:00 06/21/2009
NAGA CITY, Philippines – The Philippines must “work for the poor” as it works to grow the economy, World Bank Country Director Bert Hofman said.
While economic growth in the past years “has been high,” Hofman said the Philippines continued to experience “relatively high income inequality.”
“Growth alone is not enough. It must work for the poor,” Hofman said here on Saturday during the launch of the Naga City Governance Institute.
He said the Philippines had a “history of macro [economic] inconsistencies” like in the inflation and foreign exchange rates.
The Philippines is among 191 countries that aim to meet eight Millennium Development Goals (MDG) by 2015, where eradicating poverty and hunger is highest on the aganda
Hofman cited the “extensive red tape” and the backward transportation system in the country as among the challenges that concerned the World Bank “for years.”
According to the advocacy group Social Watch Philippines, the Bicol region has a poverty incidence of 55.1 percent compared to the national record of 32.9 percent in 2007.
“Our thinking is to help keep the kids of poor families in school and give poor families the right health care, in addition to good macro economics and good investment plan,” Hofman said.
Hofman said the Philippines had “all the things that it takes to succeed in development” because of its English-proficient population.
When asked about his thoughts on the effects of the insurgencies on development, Hoffman said “The insurgency problem, as you may call it, gives foreign investors the perception that it is not safe to invest here.”
Juan Escandor Jr. Inquirer Southern Luzon Bureau
Compared to a year ago, Filipinos who consider their lives had worsened increased by four points to 47 percent, new survey results showed.
While optimism that the quality of lives of Filipinos will improve in the next 12 months rose, pessimism among other individuals also rose, which brings the net personal optimism of Filipinos more or less “unchanged,” the latest Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey results showed.
The nationwide survey fielded over Feb. 20-23 among 1,200 respondents showed that 32 percent is expecting personal quality of life to improve in the next 12 months, while 19 percent of Filipinos is expecting it to get worse.
This brings the net personal optimism (percentage of optimists minus percentage of pessimists) to +14, or “fair.”
SWS explained that as compared to the fourth quarter of 2008 figures, both personal optimism (rose by two points) and personal pessimism (rose by four points), increased.
“Thus net personal optimism was more or less unchanged,” SWS said.
With regard to change in personal quality of life compared to 12 months ago, the latest survey found those saying their lives had worsened (termed “losers”) increased by four points to 47 percent as compared to the fourth quarter of 2008 figure.
Meanwhile, those saying their lives had improved (termed “gainers”) remained at 19 percent.
SWS said the result of the losers and gainers brings the “Gainers-Losers gap” (percentage of gainers minus percentage of losers) to a low –28, or “worse” by four points from the previous quarter.
Considering personal optimism among geographic areas, the survey showed that it rose in Luzon outside Metro Manila, and decreased in the Visayas.
As compared to the previous quarter, net personal optimism in balance Luzon rose by six points, to a high +23 in February.
However, it declined by 15 points in the Visayas, to a “low” –4, by six points in Mindanao, to a “fair” +11, and by one point in Metro Manila, to a “fair” +14.
With regard to net personal optimism among socio-economic classes, it rose by two points in class D, to a “fair” +16 in February.
Meanwhile, it declined by 13 points in class E, down to a “mediocre” +5, and by four points in class ABC, to a “fair” +15 [Chart 5, Table 5].
As also shown in the survey, gainers-losers gap narrowed in Mindanao and widened in the Visayas.
The figures showed that the number of losers exceeding gainers in Mindanao eased by six points from the previous quarter, “slightly improving to a mediocre –16” in February.
However, it worsened by 19 points in the Visayas, down to a “very low” –49, by five points in Metro Manila, to a “very low” –33, and by two points in Balance Luzon, to a “low” –23.
Likewise, it worsened by 14 points in class E, falling to a “very low” –36, and by three points in class ABC, to a “mediocre” –17.
It remained at a “low” –26 in class D.
The February survey also looked into the level of optimism and pessimism of Filipinos with regard to the global financial crisis.
“Optimism that the Philippine economy would get better (economic optimists) rose by one point, to 19 percent in February, while pessimism (economic pessimist) stayed at 38 percent,” SWS said.
The net economic optimism score (percentage of economic optimists minus percentage of economic pessimists) was a “mediocre” –19.
SWS noted that net economic optimism has been at “low to very low” levels over the past six quarters, ranging from –19 to –39. As shown in the results, economic pessimism eased in Metro Manila and worsened in the Visayas.
Economic pessimism eased in Metro Manila, with a net economic optimism improved by 19 points from the previous quarter to a mediocre –18 in February.
Net economic optimism improved by seven points in balance Luzon, to a “mediocre” –14.
It worsened by 18 points in the Visayas, down to a “very low” –33, and by five points in Mindanao, to a “mediocre” –18. It rose by six points in class D, to a “mediocre” –18, and by five points in class ABC, to a “mediocre” –17. It worsened by 15 points in class E, to a “low” –23.
The SWS first quarter survey of 2009 used face-to-face interviews of 1,200 adults in Metro Manila, the balance of Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao with sampling error margins of ±3 percentage for national percentages and ±6 percentage for area percentages.
By Helen Flores Updated April 22, 2009 12:00 AM
MANILA, Philippines – Fewer Filipino families consider themselves “mahirap” or poor, according to the latest survey by the Social Weather Stations (SWS).
The First Quarter 2009 Social Weather Survey, fielded over Feb. 20 to 23, showed 47 percent of Filipino families (about 8.7 million) consider themselves as poor, 27 percent put themselves on the “Borderline” and 26 percent consider themselves as “Hindi Mahirap” or not poor.
SWS said Self-Rated Poverty has been on a generally downward trend since mid-2008, declining from 59 percent in June 2008, 52 percent in September, 52 percent in December to 47 percent in February 2009.
The non-commissioned survey also found that 36 percent of Filipino families (estimated 6.7 million) consider themselves as “Food-Poor,” 34 percent put themselves on the “Food-Borderline” and 30 percent consider themselves as “Not Food-Poor.”
SWS said Self-Rated Food Poverty has been volatile but also declining since it went from 49 percent in June 2008 to 38 percent in September, 42 percent in December to 36 percent in February 2009.
SWS said poverty rates declined sharply in Mindanao, from 59 percent in December 2008 to 45 percent in February 2009.
It declined slightly in Metro Manila, from 53 percent to 49 percent and in balance Luzon, from 44 percent to 42 percent.
It stayed at 60 percent in the Visayas over the past two quarters, barely changing from 59 percent in September.
SWS said Self-Rated Poverty in urban areas went down from 47 percent to 43 percent, while it declined slightly in rural areas, from 56 percent to 53 percent.
The one-quarter decline in Self-Rated Food Poverty is also sharpest in Mindanao, the SWS said.
It dropped by 15 points, from 51 percent in December to 36 percent in February.
It declined slightly in the Visayas, from 50 percent to 45 percent, in balance Luzon, from 35 percent to 31 percent and in Metro Manila, from 42 percent to 39 percent.
The latest survey also found that the poverty threshold – or the monthly budget that poor households need in order not to consider themselves poor in general – slightly rose in Luzon and the Visayas.
“The Self-Rated Poverty Threshold has been sluggish for several years despite considerable inflation,” the SWS said.
“This indicates that poor families have been lowering their living standards, i.e., belt-tightening.”
As of February 2009, the median poverty threshold for poor households in Metro Manila stayed at P10,000, even though it had already reached as high as P15,000 several times in the past.
For those in Mindanao, the median poverty threshold stayed at P5,000, although it had already been at P10,000 before.
The median poverty thresholds of poor households rose slightly to P8,000 in balance Luzon and to P7,500 in the Visayas, but had also already reached P10,000 before for both areas.
The median food-poverty thresholds for poor households dwindled to P4,800 in Metro Manila, and to P3,000 in balance Luzon.
It remained at P4,000 in balance Luzon and at P3,000 in Mindanao. SWS said these levels had already been reached several years ago.
In Metro Manila in particular, SWS said the median poverty threshold is still P10,000 as in 2000, even though the Consumer Price Index (CPI) has risen there by about 55 percent since.
“The NCR median poverty threshold of P10,000 per month for February 2009 is equivalent to only P6,456 in base year 2000 purchasing power, after deflation by the CPI,” the SWS said.
“The deflated poverty threshold for NCR of below P7,000 per month is a throwback to living standards of over twenty years ago.”
In four SWS surveys in 2000, the base year of the CPI, the median SWS poverty threshold for NCR was already P10,000 per month, equivalent to P15,490 per month at the February 2009 cost of living, given the CPI of 154.9.
“The difference of P15,490 – P 10,000 = P5,490 between the thresholds of 2000 and February 2009 measures the extent of belt-tightening that took place,” it said.
On the other hand, median food poverty threshold of P4,800 in Metro Manila is equivalent to only P3,194 in base year 2000 purchasing power for food.
The median food poverty threshold in December 2000 was P6,000 for Metro Manila. It is equivalent to P9,018 per month at the February 2009 cost of food, given the latest CPI of 150.1 for food items.
“The difference of P9,018 – P4,800 = P4,218 between the food thresholds of 2000 and February 2009 is the extent of belt-tightening made by food-poor Metro Manila households,” the SWS said.
The SWS survey used face-to-face interviews of 1,200 adults in Metro Manila, the balance of Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.
Sampling error margins of plus or minus three percent for national percentages and plus or minus six percent for area percentages were applied.
‘Thanks to Malacañang’
At Malacañang, Press Secretary Cerge Remonde attributed the decline in the self-poverty rate to the administration’s programs against hunger and poverty.
“This is a confirmation that indeed the anti-poverty programs of President Arroyo are working and right on target,” he said.
Remonde said the results were significant, considering that the decline came in the midst of the global financial crisis.
“We don’t want to look like we’re bragging but we can say that the result is very inspiring and it inspires us to continue pursuing our anti-poverty program,” he said.
Remonde said that the National Anti-Poverty Commission under Mrs. Arroyo’s leadership has steered the government in the right direction on the efforts to reduce poverty.
The government has implemented several programs to address hunger and poverty, including providing cash and food subsidies to the poor, he added. — – With Marvin Sy
WASHINGTON, Feb. 14 (Reuters) – A day ahead of a meeting of industrial powers, the World Bank said new research showed more people were being pushed into poverty in developing countries due to the global financial crisis.
It said new 2009 estimates compiled by the bank show that weaker economic growth will push 46 million more people below the poverty line of $ 1.25 a day than was expected before the crisis emerged in 2007.
An additional 53 million people will stay trapped on less than a day. This is on top of the 130 million-155 million people pushed into poverty in 2008 because of soaring food and fuel prices, it said.
The Washington-based development lender, whose mission is to fight global poverty, said the new forecasts highlight the risk that the world will fail to meet a universally agreed target to halve global poverty by 2015 under the UN Millennium Development Goals.
World Bank President Robert Zoellick, who will attend the Group of Seven meeting, said helping the poor required a global solution.
“While much of the world is focused on bank rescues and stimulus packages, we should not forget that poor people in developing countries are far more exposed if their economies falter,’’ he said in a statement.
“This is a global crisis requiring a global solution. The needs of poor people in developing countries must be on the table,’’ he said
In its research, the World Bank said the global economic crisis exposed households in virtually all developing countries to increased poverty and hardship.
It said countries where poverty was already a problem before the crisis would be particularly hard hit.
It also said efforts by governments in developing countries to fend off the crisis were blunted by weak institutions and already tight budgets.
DRIVE around the streets of the Metro and once you see a line, you immediately know it’s people queuing for lotto tickets. And with some 2,000 said to have joined the Lotto Millionaires Club, with winnings ranging from P3 million to P249 million, the number of hopeful lotto buyers will continue to grow.
Do the thriving lotto sales reflect a Filipino tendency to look for an easy way to wealth? Only partially, and I’d say this happens all over the world. People do have a weakness for lotteries, and governments have cashed in, setting up sweepstakes and lottos, with the proceeds purportedly going to charity to calm down people who see this as a form of gambling.
Dreams of instant wealth are shared across cultures, hich is why, besides the lotteries, we have all kinds of swindlers and scam artists offering untold riches from magic boxes (“Put money in this box and I will multiply it for you.”) to pyramid schemes. What does vary is the intensity of these aspirations, and the kind of scams peddled.
In the Philippines, we have a tendency to think of the poor as the most gullible, and attribute this to indolence. But look hard enough and you’ll realize that there really isn’t that much for con artists to take from the poor in the first place. Smart swindlers target the gullible among the middle and upper classes.
If Filipinos often talk about hopes for easy money and instant wealth, it’s because people do have to work so hard in the Philippines, and get so very little. Yet Filipinos also see others who get rich quickly with relatively little effort, so they begin to ask, “Why can’t I do that too?”
Foremost reason for the instant wealth, of course, is corruption. Ask young men from lower or even middle-class families what their dream job is, and they’d most likely answer, “police” or “customs inspector.” Probe a bit more and they will be quite candid in saying “that’s where the easy money is.”
Talk with business people handling government contracts and you’ll encounter two extremes. The honest ones will be talking about how exasperating it can be to chase after government payments, with very small profit margins. Talk with the “smart” ones and they’ll tell you all it takes is one major contract to make money enough to last you a lifetime, as long as you play the game right with commissions—your own as well as the host politicians. And these commissions—as we have been seeing in recent exposés in the Senate—make the lotto multi-million peso winnings look like loose change.
Easy money? Only for those on top of these syndicates. Profits trickle down. Just look at the well-documented jueteng (numbers game) industry showing how huge election spending can be funded by jueteng, while the kubrador or small collectors live in poverty.
Let’s move out of the area of graft and corruption and look at the private sector where get-rich activities thrive as well, often legally. The other day I was driving in one of the side streets of Quezon Boulevard and saw a large sign in front of one of the clubs, offering “up to P100,000 a month” to “attractive ladies.” Some overseas recruitment agencies also lure applicants with these amazing salary offers.
But most promises of instant money involve marketing. There are so many pyramid marketing schemes offering people a chance to earn lots of money selling everything from cosmetics to water purifiers. Initially, the schemes work because you’re able to sell to relatives, friends and neighbors, until you realize there’s a limit to the people in your network. The quick profits evaporate, eventually eating into the capital and people end up the poorer for it, sometimes with over-priced merchandise no one wants to buy.
The last five years or so have also featured another kind of easy money made available to the upper class: giant financial investment schemes in stocks and government bonds, brokered by banks. People were raking in up to 60 percent of their investment within a year, not doing anything except investing in the funds. Word spread and even little old grandmothers eventually began to play the game.
There were some warning signs about two or three years ago when investments began to falter, but the markets recovered… until this year. It turns out now that there was much speculation going on, foreign investors playing with our stock markets and our financial institutions, then withdrawing when the going got bad. The global financial crisis, we know now, came about in part because of all this speculation.
If anything good is going to come out of this global crisis, it might be a sobering of our aspirations, and a return to the old adage about easy money being suspicious money. Radical changes are going to come around the next year, as governments try to clean up capitalism. Meanwhile, lotto sales will remain brisk, maybe even picking up, with buyers taking things philosophically. Because in a way, they shrug, you always win. If you lose, well, the loss can still be seen as a donation to charity.
THE World Bank (WB) is a specialized agency of the UN system, established in 1944. It encompasses two development institutions and three affiliates focused on worldwide poverty reduction.
Helping poor nations
The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) is WB’s main component that provides loans and technical assistance for projects in developing – poor – member countries, like RP, and encourages co-financing for projects from other countries or a syndication of dozens of giant commercial banks in the US and Europe.
Most big infrastructures in RP are funded with loans by the billions of pesos from IBRD, that in turn urges big commercial banks in Europe by the dozens to invest here.
One bridge or highway project here costing R500M needs a long-term loan of .52 million. The World Bank will then encourage other giant banks in Switzerland, Paris, London, Berlin, New York, etc. to share in meeting the loan and its terms.
One or two banks may not loan more than R500M to RP.
Disclosures of IBRD that some Filipino contractors and politicians connive or help each other to “corner” contracts via acts amounting to fraud, conflict of interest, influence peddling and other fraudulent means serve as notice/revelation to the lending banks.
The above places RP on the banks’ blacklist of nations notoriously engaged in making net loans result in inferior bridge or road called by honest builders as “matapang sa buhangin.” The same notice or knowledge is not forgotten for years by nations that apply their IBRD loans with unassailable honesty.
Just an image
This was probably the start of RP’s unkind image of having corrupt high officials, national and local, and of wasting loans from IBRD and other sources encouraged by the World Bank Group.
Our high officials and politicians were “splendidly quick” in denying allegations of contract “rigging, fixing and spinning yarns or wizardry.” They – officials and contractors – angrily disputed the lending bank’s official list of shadowy contractors and questioned results of a long investigation by independent experts.
The bank officials did not answer the rage/anger of blacklisted contractors and their protectors. Neither did it refer to blacklisted contractors considered by DPWH officials/engineers as truly friendly and kind and thoughtful and honest – of all things – all the time.
And all 91.8M of us don’t know what epithets and unkind words are being thrown by lending banks in our way for years.
Let’s not forget that a syndication of banks is like a club and can influence other banks in Europe and in the US not to give RP loans of any kind in years.
But let’s not be too harsh on DoJ investigators and the NBI if they call World Bank investigations without basis or based on unreliable evidence like the findings favorable to dirty little crooks selling drugs.
The two agencies combined, including other good agencies, cannot summon Obama’s audacity to take a closer look at disbursements called pork or view a few bottles of liquid fertilizer (replaced by deepwell water) but commanded a price amounting to 1000 percent (or 10 times) of the normal price tag.
DoJ and NBI conclusions with respect to PDEA’s arrests of drug traders they considered innocent are now under review by a commission headed by a retired and distinguished Supreme Court justice. (Comments are welcome at email@example.com)
Author: Atty. Romeo V. Pefianco