Friday, 11 December 2009

Poor Filipinos on the rise despite growth — ADB

Cheryl Arcibal, GMANetwork.TV

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

The number of poor Filipinos has been increasing despite relatively steady economic growth in recent years, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) said.

In a study titled ‘Poverty in the Philippines: Causes, Constraints, and Opportunities,’ the Manila-based lender said the Philippine yearly poverty reduction rate of 0.47 percent between 1990 and 2005 was slower than in Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Only in the Philippines has the overall number of poor people increased during that period, it added.

The number could further rise as a result of the global economic crisis and recent increases in the poverty incidence, the ADB warned.

“Because of the current global economic crisis and recent increases in the poverty incidence, the goal of reducing the proportion of people living in extreme poverty may not be achieved," it said.

The poorest provinces in the country are mostly located in Mindanao. These are Tawi-Tawi, Zamboanga del Norte, Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Surigao del Norte, and Misamis Occidental. The ther poorest provinces are Apayao, Masbate, Northern Samar and Abra.

Poverty trap
“For the Philippines, given the main assumption of gross domestic product growth rate of 1.6 percent and considering three scenarios, the poverty incidence will still be in the range of 21.1 percent to 28.7 percent by 2020. Unless the Philippine economy is able to shift to a higher growth trajectory, it might be stuck in a poverty trap," the ADB said.

The Manila-based lender traced rising poverty to low to moderate economic growth for the past 40 years, high population growth, weakness in job generation and low-quality jobs, failure to fully develop agriculture, recurrent conflicts and natural disasters.

The study noted that the poverty incidence among households had increased from a fourth to 26.9 percent in 2006, while the number of poor families rose from 4 million in 2003 to 4.7 million three years ago.

Meanwhile, the headcount index went up to 32.9 percent in 2006 from 30 percent in 2003, while the number of poor people jumped from 23.8 million in 2003 to 27.6 million three years ago.

The ADB said, self-rated poverty has ranged from 50 percent to 52 percent for most of 2008, peaking at 59 percent — an estimated 10.6 million Filipinos — in the second quarter.

Large families
The poor usually have large families — up to six or more members. “Family size is also positively correlated with poverty incidence and vulnerability," the bank said.

Less than a fifth of households with four members or less are poor, and the percentage doubles to more than 40 percent when the household size is six or more, the ADBsaid.

To ensure better anti-poverty efforts, the ADB said the Philippines needs a more coordinated response to attain higher levels of sustained growth and bolster the country's overall development.

“Poverty reduction will not only benefit the poor themselves but society as a whole. It is in everyone's interest to make poverty reduction a priority," said Camila Holmemo, a poverty reduction specialist at ADB"s Southeast Asia Department.

Key priorities should include strengthened social protection, improved human development, more efficient population management, job creation, infrastructure investments, and continued economic reforms for sustained and inclusive growth, the ADB said.

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