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Living Conditions Getting Better in PHL

We have something to cheer on this Christmas season!


More Filipinos are being pulled out of the poverty level and more have found jobs, thanks to the government’s massive infrastructure program and serious efforts to improve a lot of the people.


The latest data released by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) confirm that the Philippines has achieved substantial economic gains over the past four years, despite the criticisms hurled by several sectors against the administration of President Duterte.


More than the gross domestic product (GDP) growth, the poverty incidence, and the unemployment rate are probably the better gauges of the economic performance of a country. In the United States, the jobs report, particularly on nonfarm payrolls, is closely monitored by both the stock market and the Federal Reserve as a crucial indicator of economic performance.


In many developing countries, the poverty incidence level reflects how a government delivers on its promise to lift the people out of indigence.


This is why the results of two recent surveys by the PSA are considered relevant, with a timely and meaningful consequences on the lives of the Filipino people.  


The PSA on December 6 said the full-year 2018 poverty incidence, or the proportion of poor Filipinos whose per-capita income was not sufficient to meet their basic food and non-food needs, declined to 16.6 percent from 23.3 percent in 2015. 


This means some 5.9 million people have been lifted out of poverty as of 2018. The country registered a poverty reduction rate of 2.23 percentage points a year, in line with the government’s target to cut poverty incidence to 14 percent by 2022.


Such employment data show significant progress not just in terms of increasing overall income, but also in terms of reducing inequality, according to the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda).


The poverty gap—or the ratio by which the average income of the poor falls below the poverty line—decreased to 2.6 percent from 4.5 percent, while the severity of poverty was reduced to 0.9 percent from 1.7 percent. These indicators signify that the incomes of the poor are increasing, according to Neda.


The economic planning agency attributed the significant reduction in poverty to the improved labor market conditions that increased the salaries and wages of the poor. 


With a vibrant economy that continues to generate good jobs, the mean salaries and wages of the population rose 22.8 percent to P156,114 in 2018, from P127,122 in 2015.


In fact, results of the Labor Force Survey released by the PSA on December 5 show that the unemployment rate eased to 4.5 percent as of October 2019, from 5.1 percent a year ago. Neda said this was the lowest overall unemployment rate for all October survey rounds in the last 10 years.


All major sectors of the economy —such as agriculture, industry and services—posted employment gains with a total net employment generation of 1.8 million over a 12-month period ending October 2019.


The underemployment rate—the proportion of those already employed, but still wanting more work—also declined to 13 percent during the month from 13.3 percent in October 2018.


With the GDP growth now back on track at 6 percent to 7 percent and the inflation rate returning to the target range of 2 percent to 4 percent, we can see further improvement in these two vital indicators in the coming years.  Both the GDP growth and inflation rate saw a brilliant recovery, no less, in the third quarter this year, which I think would continue through the fourth quarter at the peak of the holiday season.  Even the level of the peso at around 50 against the US dollar reflects the confidence of businesses and consumers in the economy.


Other indicators are very stable, as well. With everything falling into place, I believe that we will continue to make significant gains in terms of poverty reduction and employment generation over the next three years as the Duterte administration sustains its “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure program and Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program.


The implementation of recently passed reforms, such as the Rice Tariffication Act, the Ease of Doing Business and Efficient Government Service Delivery Act, and the Revised Corporation Code will also help sustain these gains.


It is the people who will decide if these indicators are accurate, or if the noise generated by critics as the next election approaches is justifiable. However, I believe that no amount of criticism should derail the government’s campaign to make a meaningful impact on the lives of the Filipino people.


Let us, instead, cheer the positive gains of the economy. 


Merry Christmas to all!