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Opinion

EDITORIAL - The challenge of poverty

The Philippine Star
EDITORIAL - The challenge of poverty

One of the toughest challenges facing the country’s first majority president in decades is poverty, which has worsened in the two years of mobility restrictions due to the pandemic.

This week the Commission on Population and Development reported that in 2015, the poverty rate stood at 23 percent. This improved to a low of 16 percent in 2019 under President Duterte. Popcom had hoped to bring down the level to 14 percent. With the COVID-19 pandemic, however, the poverty rate surged back to 23.7 percent last year, Popcom reported.

This translates to 26.14 million Filipinos living below the poverty threshold, which is defined as an average monthly income of P12,082 for a family of five. Surveys have also shown self-rated hunger rising due to the pandemic, although this has since tapered off with the gradual easing of restrictions. As of December last year, the fourth quarter survey conducted by Social Weather Stations Inc. showed that 11.8 percent of families, or approximately three million, reported experiencing involuntary hunger, with the highest incidence reported in Metro Manila.

Malnutrition and undernourishment have been blamed for physical and mental stunting among children, which aggravates problems posed by poverty. Poor reading comprehension among 15-year-old Filipino students has been blamed partly on poverty and poor nutrition.

The government has tried to ease poverty through cash dole-outs, both conditional and unconditional. State resources are limited, however, especially with the country buried in P12.68 trillion in debt as of end-March. Poverty alleviation is also better achieved through empowerment of the poor, by providing them opportunities and a level playing field for personal advancement as they pursue their chosen career paths.

Inclusive growth is one of the promises of the incoming administration. Inclusion has been a challenge to successive administrations. With his decisive mandate, perhaps incoming president Ferdinand Marcos Jr. can make a significant dent in confronting the challenge of poverty.

POVERTY

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