The 2000 Poverty Report

This paper presents an analysis of the poverty situation in the country
and the economic crisis which spared no one, and where almost everyone
is worse off now than before. It then proceeds to advocate for several
short-term "Doables" that can be carried over the long haul in
addressing poverty. Proposed measures include: treating agriculture as
an important safety net; coco levy recovery and resolution; clear-cut
rice policy; asset reform; reforms in the education and health sector;
harnessing the funds of OFW remittances; and necessary conditions for
sustained growth.

Much has already been written and said about poverty. One
administration after another uses directly or indirectly poverty
alleviation, if not eradication as a campaign platform. Over the years,
there has been a steady, albeit quite slow reduction in poverty
incidence in the country. Taking the World Bank and the National
Statistical Coordination Board's poverty estimates as a continuum,
(although not necessarily comparative), annual average reduction in
poverty incidence from 1961 to 1997 is at 0.76 percent. One further
gets impatient with the even slower average annual reduction in poverty
incidence in rural areas at 0.54 percent. As we all know, it is in the
rural areas where poverty is more pervasive and if anything, that
should be where the most reduction should occur.

It is well-known among people who monitor its movement that compared to
other Asian countries, our efforts to reduce its incidence has been
lagging behind. For instance, if we take the more recent years 1988 to
1996, Thailand's average annual poverty incidence reduction is 2.7
percent1. On the other hand, our 1988 to 1997 record is a dismal 0.6
percent.

Worries are further confounded with the 2000 Family Income and
Expenditures Survey when, after so many years of painfully slow poverty
reduction effort, poverty incidence has, for the first time, once more
risen to 34.2 percent from 31.8 percent in 1997. This translates into
an additional 705,000 families or, at 6 household members per family,
4.23 million additional poor Filipinos from 1997 to 2000. Overall,
there are roughly 31.3 million Filipinos who are poor or about 40
percent of a 75 million population.

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