Sunday, December 9, 2012

Leaving the Poor Behind




The organic expansion of the Philippine economy, buoyant even as the rest of the global economy suffers both external and internal disparity and adversity, speaks to the right macroeconomic approach that Filipinos have been taking and to their fundamental investment aptitude in the grander scheme of things. On the other hand, it poses the question as to whether or not this impressive feat of economic growth will unequivocally benefit the poor. The immediate answer is I doubt it.

Over the last decade, the Philippine Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has trended upward to worthwhile levels. But Philippine society is still being routinely struck by shallow employment rates and by increasing poverty. The government of Noynoy Aquino can trumpet the succession of economic figures that are gracing the country’s financial reports, but how is it that the Philippines is surging economically yet leaving its underprivileged behind?

Many clearheaded and thoughtful perspectives on this complex disjunction between progress and exclusion have been circulated. We can glean from the style of reasoning that issues forth from a variety of technocrats and economists, that there is a momentous discrepancy in the Philippines between national economic growth and the poverty alleviation objective of the administration of Noynoy Aquino.

It is not enough to think that there is an underdeveloped lower class in the Philippines and that it is being squeezed out of the country’s socio-economic space. As the instances of hardship and deprivation continue to pile up, the distribution of wealth plays a key role in raising the subject I’ve been talking about here.

Intellectuals and institutions both in the Philippines and around the world put an exclamation point on the disproportionate distribution of wealth which drowns the populist roots of economic prosperity. Stripped down of model statistical figures and politicized narratives, it is clear that the wealth distribution imperative is at an acute stage. Reason dictates that the conspicuous failure to respond prudently and forthrightly to it will continue to bury substantial swaths of Philippine society under a mountain of destitution.

There are several reasons that necessitate a terribly-skewed distribution of wealth in the Philippines. In the first place, there is the dreadful and condemnable behavior of particular Philippine politicians whose only concern is the preservation of their political office and bank accounts. The moral and professional obligation of working for the benefit of the Filipino people has hardly made an impression on these callous politicos. Petty crooks, lip service artists, and even murderers and plagiarists among them, corrupt and idle Filipino politicians have trouble with the idea that they are where they are for the people and not because they are going out of their way to do their constituents a big favor.

Then there are the rich, the Philippine economic elite who would block with its last breath just about every attempt at serious economic reform that can be conceived. Popular reform to the elite is an anathema, an anathema that if ever brought to bear as a reality would greatly diminish its members’ historically undue influence over society. What the elite has to understand is that slowly but surely the tide of history will turn against them over the long run if they do not take a more amenable attitude toward necessary reform.

The whole idea is to lift the lower class out of poverty and into what currently stands as the Philippine middle class. The good news is that what used to be a negligible middle class in the Philippines is progressively becoming a presentiment of a more equitable future. The middle class, the anchor of any truly democratic polity, is evolving into an economic force to deal with in the Philippines. Its continued rise will push the boundaries of economic governance and management for the better and balance out the unequal distribution of wealth that Philippine society has suffered so grievously from.

The suasions of undeniable economic growth are hard to ignore. Insofar as the Philippine economy continues to grow measurably, Filipinos can rightly give thought to a brighter future than was thought possible as more of them flourish. But even as so many Filipinos cross over to the more golden side of the asset ledger, it is still unconscionable that millions others are bereft of the opportunity to join them.

ALLEN GABORRO

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