Arroyo government may dispute surveys and studies indicating that problems
of hunger and poverty exist in the country despite reported Gross Domestic
Product growth rates. But no one can deny the pangs of hunger.
March 2007, a survey on hunger conducted by the Social Weather Stations (SWS)
revealed that 19 percent of Filipino families or 3.4 million households
experienced hunger at least once during the previous three months. The
Arroyo administration responded by questioning the accuracy of the
survey. President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo retorted that even she misses a
meal whenever she is busy.
SWS survey was followed by a poverty survey released by the World Bank on
April 16. The WB report revealed that at least 14.8 million Filipinos or
19 percent of the Filipino population in 2000 live on less than $1 a day,
trapped in extreme poverty. Added to this, 43 million Filipinos live on
$2 a day, a less extreme international measure of poverty. Malnutrition
under age 5 averaged about 28 percent.
the report, National Anti-Poverty Commission lead convenor Domingo
Panganiban said the World Bank data was “misleading” and “outdated.” He
said that since poverty estimates in the Philippines are expected to fall
below 10 percent in 2006 and to 8.4 percent in 2007, the figures quoted by
the Philippine Daily Inquirer in its April 17 story may be that of 1990
figures. Panganiban further said that since the World Bank uses the
Purchasing Power Party dollar as their value, the threshold for the
Philippines may be lower at less than P20 ($0.418 at an exchange rate of
government may dispute surveys and studies indicating that problems of
hunger and poverty exist in the country despite reported Gross Domestic
Product growth rates. But one thing is clear: The results of both the SWS
survey on hunger and the WB data on poverty were consistent.
government is disputing the WB data because it shows that 57.8 million
Filipinos or 66.4 percent of the estimated 87,000,000 population are poor.
SWS survey showed that more Filipinos experienced hunger, 3.4 million
households or 20.4 million people at an average of six members per
household, than those reported as extremely poor by the World Bank in
2000. Even the 43 million Filipinos who live on $2 a day surely
Arroyo government is wont to play with statistics to make it appear that
the situation in the country is better off than it really is. Two years
ago, it changed the definition of “unemployed,” taking away those who are
not looking for work and are not sick or waiting for the results of job
applications, to lower the unemployment rate. The new definition thus
reduced the unemployment rate by two to three percent and the number of
unemployed to about 1 to 1.5 million people. A closer look at the number
of employed, however, reveals an increasing number of unpaid family labour
and self-employed. The average unemployment rate of 11.6 percent and
underemployment rate of 18.5 percent since 2000 is the worst six-year
period in the country’s history. The unemployed and underemployed
numbered 11.6 million Filipinos or a third of the labour force in 2006.
No wonder a lot of Filipinos are poor and are experiencing hunger.
National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB) set a very low poverty
threshold of P13, 823 per year in 2000 to come up with a very low poverty
rate of 39.4 percent of the population. It also set a very low
subsistence threshold of P9,183. By NSCB’s computations a person should
live below P1,151 each month or P38.39 a day before being classified as
poor. Perhaps government officials especially the president and her
cabinet secretaries should try to live on this amount. They could donate
the rest of their salaries and perks to the fight against poverty.
Arroyo government’s economists and spin doctors can play with statistics
and blame the opposition and the Left for painting a dismal picture of the
country. But to the ordinary Filipino, the pangs of hunger and their
worsening situation of destitution are real. No amount of spin can change
PRINTER-FRIENDLY VERSION ■
© 2007 Bulatlat
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