RH Bill: Key to Attaining Inclusive Growth

FULL DISCLOSURE By Fidel O. Abalos (The Freeman) Updated June 25, 2012 12:00 AM

The past several years, the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grew significantly. In fact, spurred by consumer demand, the resurgence of exports and investments as well as election-related spending, it grew considerably by 7.3% in 2010. Truth to tell, despite a very much maligned Arroyo administration, our economy parlayed the 2008-2009 recession better than our other Asian neighbors. Moreover, the boom in the outsourcing industry and the steadily increasing remittances from Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) that is now nearing US$2 billion per month have added impetus to a once sagging economy. Consequently, our economy grew at a yearly average of 4.5% the past decade.

Despite this rosy picture, however, poverty has worsened. Thus, our countrymen are wondering, why in heaven’s name we claim to have grown significantly and yet majority of our brethrens are languishing in poverty. Is it possible? Yes, it is. For one, economic growth is generally measured in terms of GDP. Increase in GDP does not necessarily trickle down to the grassroots. It simply means that the pace of growth is there but the path or pattern of growth does not cut through the working class or the masses. To put it bluntly, we certainly have “economic growth” but, absolutely, there is no “inclusive growth”.

“Inclusive growth”, though more often interchangeably used with other terms, such as, “broad-based growth”, “shared growth” and “pro-poor growth”, distinctively focuses on the pace and pattern of growth. While it also concerns about poverty alleviation, the difference between pro-poor and inclusive growth is that the “pro-poor approach is mainly interested in the welfare of the poor while inclusive growth is concerned with opportunities for the majority of the labor force, poor and middle-class alike”.

Generally, there are two ways of alleviating poverty incidences. These are productive employment and income redistribution. Though a long term approach, productive employment can be addressed by encouraging new investments, both foreign and domestic. On the other hand, income redistribution can be done through social spending programs like cash transfers. Unlike other measures, inclusive growth takes the long term approach by focusing on the productive employment.

As business climate is primordial consideration before investors put in their hard-earned money, more often, our government focuses on income redistribution approaches. For one, we had the “land for the landless” program and the recently initiated cash transfer program or the 4Ps. Despite all these sincere efforts, however, poverty has worsened. Why? This is due primarily, not only to a very high population growth rate but ballooning family sizes of our irresponsible parents. .

To reiterate, one of the more popular solutions pressed by the catholic church and some politicians had always been the “land for the landless” program or land reform. This program is anchored on the belief that if the landless will be given lands to till, their lives will dramatically improve. This program is precariously viewed as a panacea that guarantees a 360-degree turnaround. Historically, this solution showed nothing but promised bounty. Just lofty promises oftentimes repeated by political aspirants every election year. As term ends and another one begins, presidents paid lip service to this initiative and vowed to bring in every worker’s lap deliverance from bondage. So far, our beneficiaries have nothing but crumbs. Decades passed and we are seeing a few that are tilled while some are left in total neglect.

To those who abandoned, they might have pursued a different approach in emancipating themselves. On the other hand, the few who are left tilling the land are starting to realize that what they have are just too little should the coming generation demand for their rightful share. As the finale has always been, the original beneficiaries and their descendants end up either abandoning their land or selling them.

Moreover, PNoy’s government launched the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) Program. Dubbed as 4Ps or “Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program”, it is a five-year-long conditional cash transfer program that is envisioned to break the country’s cycle of poverty. Reportedly, in other countries that first implemented a similar program, increases in school enrollment and attendance were noted and a significant improvement in health and nutrition were felt. Notably, however, it was only felt in the short term as household income was increased by the dole-out and, consequently, consumption in poor families raised as well. True enough, this fact was recently confirmed by the latest survey which revealed that the country’s hunger incidences have again increased. Why? As the program limits subsidies only to four (4) kids, logically, those with half or a dozen will still continue to starve.

Therefore, it starts with the right family size. The appropriate size that is very much within the family’s resources or income. With this mindset prevailing, right thinking couples/individuals will tend to limit their number kids so they can responsibly and comfortably raise their families. On the other hand, some couples/individuals simply have different mindsets. They look at kids as income producing properties. So that, they dwell purely on a very stupid equation, the more kids = more hands to earn for them. Worst, they even try figure out earning more with very little investment. They just let the mothers breastfeed the kids until they can walk, then, send them to the streets to beg or to the dumpsite to collect recyclable garbage.

What makes matters worst is, this bunch of couples/individuals truly felt that what they have decided to do have sound backing from the so-called pro-life advocates. The same pro-life advocates or anti-contraceptive backers who have entertained the thought that there is no need to curb population because some countries that are bigger than us (population-wise, like the USA) are, obviously, enjoying better lives. Therefore, they alleged, that being plenty has no direct correlation with poverty. To some extent, it sounds right. However, knowing fully well that USA’s land area is many times bigger than ours, logically, their population should be bigger. Likewise, if density or the level of congestion in a country is a principal barometer on poverty incidence, then, Monaco and Singapore, the most densely populated countries should have higher incidences in this regard. But no, they are among the world’s richest countries too.

Frankly, most of us have wrong perceptions. The, fact is, bigger number of inhabitants and the higher level of congestion do not directly connote poverty incidences. What truly relates to poverty incidences is family size. Truth to tell, despite the level of congestion in countries like Monaco or Singapore, the average number of children per family in these countries is just about two. More often, some are just happy with one kid. Due to limited space, they are living in world-class tenements even comparable to what we popularly referred to us “high-end condominiums”. Clearly, in these progressive countries, the common denominator isn’t their sheer number of residents or the density factor of their population. Apparently, these countries have kept their family sizes at manageable levels.

Learning from these countries’ experiences isn’t difficult. Understanding their ways of managing their families isn’t incomprehensible too. Having manageable sizes of families simply bring about positive consequences. Obviously, taking care of dozen children is so different from taking care of just two. In a very manageable family size, the wives or mothers benefit the most. They can find jobs or do more productive chores apart from taking care of the kids. With all these preoccupations, women will try to space their pregnancy or most probably just be contended of having a few. With both parents doing productive undertakings, families’ needs would be handily and responsibly taken cared off.

Clearly, therefore, having the right family size is a matter of fiscal responsibility. If one is a billionaire, then he can be like Solomon because he can afford to give better lives to a hundred children. On the other hand, if he is a pauper, for heaven sake, he must not think of having more kids to have more hands to soon bail him out of poverty. The problem, therefore, is in our problem-solving ways. We are not wanting in ideas in this regard. The RH Bill, which offers both natural and artificial methods, could be a good start to finally solve these debilitating poverty incidences.

Henceforth, cause oriented groups, church leaders and politicians alike should stop taking advantage on the impoverish situations our poverty-stricken brothers are in today. Paying lip service into it will certainly not work. They should reconsider their propensity to focus on poverty at face value not its roots.

Indeed, if our government leaders will not favorably act on this bill, we can only surmise that all their actions are deliberate and are just orchestrated. The possibility that our government leaders (a.k.a. traditional politicians) are not seriously considering any solution to free them (the poor) from bondage would, in fact, even be a big truth. After all, having poverty makes it handy for politicians to have a platform in every election – poverty alleviation.

For your comments and suggestions, please email to foabalos@yahoo.com.

Source: http://www.philstar.com/cebu-business/2012-06-25/821155/rh-bill-key-attaining-inclusive-growth

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