Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Fifteen Percent of Filipinos Are Hungry?

The Social Weather Station recently came out with a survey result that 15% of Filipinos went hungry at least once in the last 3 months. This type of survey accoding to a radio interview with a representative of SWS is done every three months for the past couple of years and such result is above the normal poll. In the same survey revealed 23% of people in Mindanao (were most Muslims live) when polled said they went hungry at least once in the last 3 months. Likewise, when polled, 53% of Filipinos say their perception of themselves are, "they are poor".

So is this information an adequate barometer of our times? Hold that thought, first and bear with me as I run through some economic numbers which when coupled by the survey will reveal the truth.

The National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) said that the Philippines is on target to achieve 5.5%-5.9% growth in the second quarter '04. Yes, that wasn't a typographical error. You read it correctly. In fact if you will look at the 29 September 2004 weekly update from NEDA that the year-to-date GDP is 6.3%. Comparing these figures to last year's same period of 4.8% and 4.6%, this year is an improvement. To put it simply, the government is predicting that the economy will grow 5.5%-5.9% this quarter thats all there is to it.

A cause to rejoice right?

Wait a minute, didn't the Social Weather Station just conducted a survey saying that 15% of Filipinos when hungry during the same period NEDA announced we are on target for growth?

Someone must be lying!

The jobless rate--- the unemployment rate between the first quarter of 2004 until the second quarter of 2004 is 12.1% according to NEDA. During the same period, last year's was 12.6%. The underemployed during the same period is 17.9% compared to last year's 20.7%. Accordingly, despite an increase in agricultural and services production, only 1.234M jobs were created as compared to 347,000 jobs in the same period as last year's (good improvement but not enough).

NEDA is saying the inflation to date is 4.3% as compared to 4% for the same period last year. But the monthly inflation from 6.0% during the preceding month to 6.3% at the end of September. Food prices jumped from 1.5% to 5% vis-a-vis the same period. In plain English, the amount of food you can buy with your peso compared to the same period last year isn't what it used to be and such change is very significant.

You must understand the data above are but snapshots--- not even the whole picture of the state of the Philippine economy but it will help us digest, if true and why 15% of Filipinos say they have been hungry at least once in the past 3 months. (visit NEDA site for greater information).

However, from this data we can gather that indeed the economy grew. More people have jobs but the rate the economy is growing is still outpaced by the number of people needing jobs. It is also telling us that the cost of living is much higher this time around than last year.

You must understand these are all Government figures. When correlated, what does this information tell us? With a lot of people looking for work and with increasing cost of living, it is not improbable that 15% of Filipinos say they went hungry at least once in the last 3 months. The year-to-date Agricultural Sector growth of 6.3% is not enough. The year-to-date industrial growth of 5.6% is not enough. The year-to-date growth of the services sector of 6.9% is not enough. This is information is telling us that the Philippine Economic growth of 5.5% to 5.9% is lackluster and inadequate.

The Philippines needs to invigorate itself and spur its economy forward and it needs to do it, yesterday. Its economic growth is not enough. It becomes fervent on our part to resolve this and provide for our people because, it becomes a crime that a Filipino should grow hungry when our shores are abundant with God's bountiful gifts.