Friday, March 7, 2008

Poverty Increases

The Philippines’ poor are expanding by around 1.3 million people every year, as rising food prices and sluggish wage growth mean that more families cannot afford to feed themselves, government data showed.

The bleak picture of 3.8 million people, nearly double the population of Slovenia, slipping below the poverty line in 2003-2006 is an embarrassment for President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who has paraded her government’s anti-poverty credentials amid a growing economy.

James Wolfensohn, the former president of the World Bank who was visiting the Philippine capital, said figures showing that 33 per cent of the population were poor in 2006, deteriorating from 30 per cent in 2003, were a disappointment. “That of course for me, as a former World Banker, is a challenging statistic to place before you,” he said at a briefing on prosperity in Manila.

The Philippines, viewed by the World Bank as one of Asia’s brightest prospects in the 1950s, has failed to match its neighbours’ economic progress and is wracked by income inequality, with plush condominium complexes overlooking filthy slums in Manila. A hundred or so families control much of the archipelago’s wealth, while 28 million people in 2006, up 16 per cent from 2003, could not scrape together the 42 pesos ($1) a day deemed the bare minimum to get by.

More than 12 million people could not meet the 27.8 pesos a day threshold for food. Economic Planning Secretary Augusto Santos said yesterday that part of the problem was due to rising costs for food and fuel, exacerbated by a hike in the national sales tax, as well as rapid population growth.

The population is currently estimated at 90 million and is growing at an average rate of 1.8 million people per year as President Arroyo, a devout Catholic, emphasises natural family planning over artificial methods of prevention. Last year, economic growth hit 7.3 percent.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Interfaith Rally

The Philippines demonstrated a great deal of political turnover when the late Ferdinad Marcos was ousted out of MalacaƱang during the 1986 People Power EDSA revolution. It won the world's attention through its peaceful means of non-violent and prayerful mass demonstration. It made news worldwide and the Philippines topped the headlines as "the revolution that surprised the world".

I thought yesterday's Interfaith rally would have been another world turner. I was on the phone talking to my father and he told me that there were already thousands of people gathered in Makati City and my brother is working somewhere near the rally area.

Former Presidents Corazon Aquino and Joseph Estrada attendance made some religious groups and organizer disappointed, most of them walked out from the rally because it has been agreed upon that no politicians will be allowed to speak on stage.

Manindigan para sa Katotohanan, Katarungan at Pagbabago” (Stand for Truth, Justice and Change) was the Interfaith rally theme. I saw in the news that the rally was attended by different sectors, youths, different religious groups, wives of those involved in the mutiny, businessmen, former cabinet members, Senator Panfilo Lacson and more.

Of course the event will not be complete without the ZTE NBN deal witness Jun Lozada. While watching him, it surprised me when he reveled that Philippines borrowed an amount of more than US$1.8 billion and Filipinos only knew about the ZTE which was only US$329 million.

The question is where did the rest of the money go? But what I am sure of is that we Filipinos will pay these debts that the Arroyo government had borrowed.