Toolbox against endless poverty

PERCEPTIONS - Ariel Nepomuceno - The Philippine Star

The chance to escape from poverty is next to impossible for most of those who are trapped in the lowest socio-economic segment of our society. For many, living without fear of hunger, deprivation and helplessness remains an elusive dream.

The rare opportunity to be liberated from the economic hardships that were passed on by their parents and grandparents will be difficult to happen. The prospect of being almost forever chained to the downward vicious cycle of being poor to becoming poorer lurks.

I have a personal male masseuse or hilot way back in 1998. His name is Edward. Though blind, he manifested his strong desire to improve his life by providing massage services. He also quipped that it was his only means to help his family. He valued his personal dignity. Furthermore, he vowed that he would not beg for alms.

I was impressed, but worried if he could really achieve his dream. Hence, I referred many of my friends to him. They patronized his talent on providing anti-stress sessions for a very reasonable charge. Edward became our friend. But I became busy with my work. After a while, a few years, we lost contact.

Intervention is urgent. Left alone, impoverished Filipinos cannot chart their own journey towards financial success nor be able to re-engineer their environment and independently become stable. No. Our government, national and local, along with our business and economic leaders, must provide the alternative road that will be available for everyone in our common quest for nationwide prosperity. Yes, this journey will take long. And this road is not paved.

First in the national government’s toolbox is the power to compel all state agencies to ensure ease of doing business. Shorten the tedious and long process in setting up businesses, starting from the registration in the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), to the accreditation in the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), down to the city or municipality for the business permits.

As I mentioned in my previous column, you need more than 30 signatures and almost two months to accomplish all these.

Other countries, particularly our neighbors, would take only one to three days to fully register. We will surely choke out new capital that would otherwise provide employment and additional capacity for wealth creation.

If we want to encourage more businesses to come in, especially foreign players, we must have an easy entry. Technology to do this is widely available. We simply have to adopt. The only way we can prosper as a country is for us to attract huge investments that would fill in the capital gap that can create new and better jobs, expand our middle class and provide excess products for the export market.

Second tool is the power of our government to revisit the Electric Power Industry Reform Act of 2001 or the EPIRA Law. Our political leaders must ensure the stability of electricity supply. Vital in creating a more vibrant manufacturing sector is the availability of a more stable electricity supply and competitive cost. Has the law truly provided the necessary competition that would allow new entrants in the industry to challenge the main players? We can debate on this the whole day, but the fact remains that our electricity cost is one of the highest in the region. This puts our manufacturing base at a disadvantage.

Third tool that can be used is a more focused budgetary and policy support to the three most crucial sectors of our economy. Agriculture, tourism and our overseas Filipino workers (OFWs). Our funds are limited. We cannot perfectly satisfy all other sectors at the same time. The key is prioritization. Agriculture must be included because we’re primarily an agricultural country. We have the resources to be globally strong in producing enough for our internal consumption and surpluses to generate substantial income.

Same with tourism, we have more than enough natural attractions that can surpass the expectations of millions of tourists from all over the world. But our airports must be ready and be out of the list of the world’s worst. Our immigration must further modernize. And the infrastructure that would support destinations must be available.

We must also take care of our OFWs. The sacrifices that they undertake for their families must be reciprocated by our institutionalized protection and assistance. They bring in at least $30 billion annually which helps in propping our economy up. We owe them.

There are other tools that our government, and the private sector, must use. But these three, for me, will provide the strategic impact for the rest to follow.

By the way, to continue my story on Edward, last week, I saw him along the Katipunan Extension Road in Quezon City. Knocking on car windows. Begging. He’s now one of those who seek temporary reprieve from sure hunger for the day. Really heart-breaking. He’s unable to fulfill his dream. He failed. We failed him too as a nation.

*      *      *

Email: [email protected]

vuukle comment


  • Latest
  • Trending
Are you sure you want to log out?

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

Get Updated:

Signup for the News Round now

or sign in with