EDITORIAL - Still no trickling down

The Philippine Star

While lauding the good news on the 7.6 percent growth in gross domestic product in 2022, President Marcos acknowledged a problem: most Filipinos have yet to enjoy the benefits of that growth.

This is partly because the GDP growth figure – the highest since the 8.8 percent recorded in 1976 – is coming from a low base, from economic contraction during the pandemic lockdowns, and because it was registered in an election year when spending typically goes up.

But even without such factors, the issue raised by the President is not new. Previous administrations have also been acknowledging the failure of the fruits of economic growth to trickle down to the grassroots. It was the same lament of Benigno Aquino III, who started his presidency with an annual GDP growth of 7.3 percent in 2010 and turned over the reins to the new administration with 7.9 percent growth in the second quarter of 2016.

Equitable growth has long eluded this country. As British-founded international charity confederation Oxfam recently pointed out, the nine richest individuals or families in the Philippines have more wealth than 55 million Filipinos combined.

Despite the rosy GDP growth figure for 2022, a survey conducted last Dec. 10 to 14 by pollster Social Weather Stations Inc. showed 39 percent of the respondents saying life stayed the same for them in the last 12 months, against 34 percent who said it got better and 26 percent who said it became worse. Self-rated hunger also remains high, with the fourth quarter survey of SWS showing three million families experiencing involuntary hunger during the period. One can’t appreciate economic growth on a hungry stomach.

Making Filipinos feel the benefits of economic growth will become more challenging this year, as most analysts see GDP growth decelerating and international experts warn of a possible global recession. The Philippines is grappling with 14-year-high inflation, driven mainly by high food costs.

Apart from working to tame inflation, the trickle-down effect can be enhanced through the provision of opportunities for merit-based advancement in life. People cannot depend forever on government doleouts or ayuda and political patronage; they need to be financially independent and economically productive in their own right. These can be helped along through the provision of quality education, and the creation of an environment that provides gainful employment and decent livelihood opportunities.

There’s a lot to be done for the benefits of growth to trickle down. For the President to acknowledge the existence of the problem is a good start.


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