Bu-lat-lat (boo-lat-lat) verb: to search, probe, investigate, inquire; to unearth facts

Volume 2, Number 31              September 8 - 14,  2002            Quezon City, Philippines







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Analysis
Maltreatment of Sidewalk Vendors and Govt's Concept of Poverty 

Official data imply that sidewalk vending in Metro Manila is an aberration, not a recurring trend brought about by poverty. For the government, sidewalk vendors are an insignificant minority of poor people and should be treated as recidivists. After all, poverty is not a major problem in the NCR since only a little over 10% may be considered poor. 

By DANILO ARAŅA ARAO
Bulatlat.com 

Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) Chair Bayani Fernando has received much flak for reclaiming the city's sidewalks by getting rid of the vendors. The MMDA has gone to the extent of pouring kerosene over the sidewalk vendors' wares to rid them of their capital. 

Fernando stressed that poverty should not be an excuse to violate the law, hence his strong-arm tactic against the sidewalk vendors. He detests being called a Hitler incarnate since he is not against the poor; he claims to be only after those who violate the law. 

In the context of economics, the fundamental problem lies in the government's concept of poverty that Fernando apparently believes in. As far as the powers-that-be is concerned, poverty is not a major problem since only a minority of the population is considered poor. 

According to the National Statistics Office, only 39.4% of the people may be considered poor nationwide as of the year 2000. The National Capital Region (NCR) has the lowest poverty incidence of 11.4% while the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) has the highest (71.3%). 

Based on its findings, the government estimates the annual per capita poverty threshold in the Philippines is P13,823 ($267.42, based on P51.69 per US dollar exchange rate). If a person has this amount, he or she is not considered poor and can fulfill food and nonfood requirements FOR ONE YEAR. 

Based on the official data on poverty, a person living in the country can survive with only P37.87 ($0.73) daily. In Region VIII (Eastern Visayas) where the poverty threshold is lowest, P29.54 ($0.57) is enough to meet food and nonfood requirements for one day. The NCR has the highest daily per capita poverty threshold at P48.53 ($0.94). 

The data tend to imply that sidewalk vending in the NCR is an aberration, not a recurring trend brought about by poverty. For the government, sidewalk vendors constitute an insignificant minority of poor people and should be considered recidivists. After all, poverty is not a major problem in the NCR since only a little over 10% may be considered poor. 

Convoluted view 

This convoluted view is reinforced by latest findings on family income. In the 2000 Family Income and Expenditure Survey (FIES), a family living in the NCR has the highest average annual income of P300,304 ($5,809.71). ARMM-based families have the lowest average annual family income of P79,590 ($1,539.76), but they are still above the government's poverty threshold assuming they do not exceed five members. (See Table 1) 

In other words, a typical family in NCR is supposed to earn P25,025.33 monthly ($484.14). If a sidewalk vendor cum sole breadwinner claims earnings of P100 to P500 ($1.93 to $9.67) per day, then he or she is "abnormal" who may either be a liar or an indolent in the eyes of government. 

Even the official expenditure data also show that average income is more than enough for the family's needs. In fact, all regions registered average annual savings ranging from P9,411 or $182.07 (CARAGA) to P56,064 or $1,084.62 (NCR) as of the year 2000. 

This implies that families who have no savings or even incur deficits given their meager income are not "average." These figures also show that while government recognizes the problem of poverty, its magnitude is not that high to be more liberal about sidewalk vending, much more provide for a substantial increase in wages and salaries of workers. 

For the government, one does not need to engage in, say, sidewalk vending to survive. Those who insist on doing so are social deviants who deserve to be punished, even to the extent of physically harming them and pouring kerosene on their products to destroy their hard-earned capital. 

This is how government treats the people it has vowed to serve, citing official statistics to prove their point. Bulatlat.com

 

Table 1
Average Family Income
By Region, 2000 (in pesos)

 

Annual

Monthly

Philippines

144,039.00

12,003.25

NCR

300,304.00

25,025.33

CAR

139,613.00

11,634.42

Region I (Ilocos)

120,898.00

10,074.83

Region II (Cagayan Valley)

108,427.00

9,035.58

Region III (Central Luzon)

151,449.00

12,620.75

Region IV (Southern Tagalog)

161,963.00

13,496.92

Region V (Bicol)

89,227.00

7,435.58

Region VI (Western Visayas)

109,600.00

9,133.33

Region VII (Central Visayas)

99,531.00

8,294.25

Region VIII (Eastern Visayas)

91,520.00

7,626.67

Region IX (Western Mindanao)

86,135.00

7,177.92

Region X (Northern Mindanao)

110,333.00

9,194.42

Region XI (Southern Mindanao)

112,254.00

9,354.50

Region XII (Central Mindanao)

90,778.00

7,564.83

ARMM

79,590.00

6,632.50

CARAGA

81,519.00

6,793.25

Source: 2000 Family Income and Expenditure Survey (FIES) Final Results

 


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