Poverty in the Philippines is never been a new issue. Much have been said to lessen or eradicate it, countless solutions have been raised, numerous approaches have been tried, changing administration have long swear that they could end such dilemma , but then, Filipinos were still imprisoned in the labyrinth of poverty.
Factors that affect poverty could be equal or ever more than the number of Islands found in the Philippines- uneven distribution and control of natural resources, labor and employment issues, overpopulation, and corruption among others.
The Philippines is rich and abundant in terms of its natural resources. In fact, if properly utilized, this could be of great help in addressing poverty. However, the big deal is that only a few people benefit from these, those powerful landlords and foreign corporations. Those ordinary Filipino tillers of land, for example, receive only a very small amount of money.
In urban areas also, the extent of poverty was related to the concentrated control of wealth. Considerable portions of both industry and finance were highly monopolized. Access to finance was severely limited to those who already possessed resources. The most profitable investment opportunities were often in areas in which tariff or other forms of government protection ensured high profits but did not necessarily result in rapidly expanding employment opportunities. In her election campaign President Aquino pledged to destroy the monopolies and structures of privilege aggravated by the Marcos regime. She looked to the private sector to revitalize the economy, create jobs for the masses of Filipinos, and lead the society to a higher standard of living. The state-protected monopolies were dismantled, but not the monopoly structure of the Philippine economy that existed long before Marcos assumed power. In their privileged positions, the business elite did not live up to the President's expectations. As a consequence, unemployment and, more importantly for the issue of poverty, underemployment remained widespread.^
Poverty reduction has not kept up with GDP growth rates, largely due to the high unemployment rate, high inflation rate and wide income inequality. From 2000 to 2009, the economy of Philippines grew by 3.2% on average annually, which was on par with the economic performance of its neighbors. However, this recent growth did not translate into more jobs. Unemployment in the Philippines has been high in comparison to its neighbors, at around 7.5% to 8.0% since 2006.*
As the world’s second largest archipelago, the Philippines have faced difficulty in job creation due to its inability to attract more foreign, direct investments. Diwa Guinigundo, whom is the Central Bank Deputy Governor, mentioned that while capital flows are turning to the emerging markets, foreign, direct investments to the Philippines remain relatively low due to the weak investment climate. The Philippines have hefty business procedures, poor tax and customs administration, weak protection against expropriation and high-energy cost. This poor investment climate has limited the Philippines ability to grow and create jobs. Therefore, the poverty rate remains constant over the years.*
Given that the population of the Philippines is increasing at a rapid rate of 2.36% per year, it can be translated as an increase of more than 5,000 people daily in a country, which already has an increase of more than four million poor people since 1985. In 1985, the absolute number of people living in poverty was 26.5 million. This increased to 30.4 million in 2000 and from 2006 to 2009, increased by almost 970,000 Filipinos from 22.2 million to 23.1 million. As the Philippines has financially limited resources and a high poverty rate, the rapid increase in population has become a problem because there is already insufficient resources to support the population, which leaves much fewer resources to improve the economy. From 2003 to 2006, even though the Philippines experienced above-average economic growth, the poverty incidence actually increased as a result of its population growth rate.”
Today, Filipinos still dream for a better Philippines. However, such dream could only be realize if every single citizen do his part. We should not blame the government. Nobody wants poverty. Stand up and do your part and I’m pretty sure that some years from now, poverty may only appear as a nightmare in the Philippine history.
*Sources: Philippine Development Plan: Asian Development Bank (ADB), 2010; National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB) *Average for the period 2001-2010
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