The presentation of De La Salle University Chairman Francis G. Estrada during the 6th general membership meeting of FINEX was truly glaring – that the percentage of Filipinos living below the poverty line has remained almost unchanged in the past eight years.
A report of the Asian Development Bank causes of the high incidence of poverty in the country that includes low to moderate economic growth for the past 40 years, weakness in employment generation and the quality of jobs generated, failure to fully develop the agriculture sector, and high levels of population growth.
Indeed, nearly 28 percent of the country’s 97 million people live below the poverty line. This is despite the average GDP growth rate of 4.78 percent from 2006 to 2011, evidencing that the lukewarm growth in the economy is not inclusive and that the economy needs to grow faster in a sustained manner.
But the government aims to reduce poverty levels to near 16 percent within the next three years. According to Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan, this can be achieved by sustaining growth rates high enough to nearly halve poverty by 2016; and we may be on the right trajectory.
The Philippine economy has grown faster than 7 percent for three straight quarters; the first quarter this year was a whopping 7.8 percent growth! It is forecasted to grow between 6.5 percent and 7.5 percent next year and 7-8 percent in 2015.
To support these projections, Secretary Balisacan confirms that the Aquino government will double its efforts to sustain economic growth and improve poverty levels by focusing job creation, infrastructure development, and reducing the high cost of doing business in the country.
But in the end there has to be a holistic approach to poverty reduction that involves all sectors of society.
One of the key finding of ADB is that poverty levels are strongly linked to educational attainment; that is, Filipinos with low educational attainment tend to be poor. That’s why the in the long term, apart from the government’s reforms to sustain economic growth, the educational system needs to ramp up. The K12 program of the government may be the key for our country to be better, if not, at par with our neighboring countries. Apart from this, the private sector’s concerted effort to improve financial literacy of Filipinos may reap benefits in improving their lives.