Why is there too much poverty in a "rich" country?

DIRECT FROM THE LABOR FRONT - Atty Josephus B Jimenez - The Freeman

How can we explain to the less privileged Filipinos why is there too much hunger, ignorance and disease in a country with the second fastest growing economy in Asia? How can we make the poor understand that, while the Philippines grew by 7.2 percent in 2013, poverty incidence has grown, literacy rate has gone down and the number of jobless, homeless and hopeless citizens is increasing in a scale that is alarming?  How can NEDA explain to the working class why are there too many Filipino families who do not eat enough right foods, that millions live in squalor below human dignity and too many Filipinos have no access to affordable medical care, and that even basic education is no longer accessible to the poor?

Stripped of jargons and high-sounding economic and financial terminologies, how can the President tell the poor Filipinos why are they suffering while the economy is growing by leaps and bounds? What is the use of such an outstanding economic performance when the fruits of prosperity do not trickle down to the poorest of the poor? How can the financial and economic team of this administration effectively make the people comprehend why there is too much money in the economy while their purchasing power has been substantially eroded by a series of increases in the prices of oil, electricity, water and other facilities? How can the Department of Energy convince the people that the government is powerless to control the upward swings of power costs?

 Could it be that the fruits of prosperity only went to the pockets of giant taipans and moguls who control the banks, the malls, the rice cartel, the transport industry, housing, garments and other basic commodities? Could it be that the economy grew in such proportions due to the unprecedented expansion in the business processing industry?Thus, could it be that the growth was fueled by the excessive supply of cheap labor while the business owners are making a killing in sales, in profits, and in returns of investment ratio? Or, is the reason really the billions of OFW remittances that are spent in consumer spending in malls and fast foods outlets? Is this an accomplishment of government or the natural behavior of the market in free enterprise economy?

How can the DOLE explain to the millions of unemployed and underemployed that there are reportedly hundreds of thousands of jobs in labor markets and that the new entrants into such markets are not qualified or willing to take the jobs? How can DOLE functionaries convince the workers that job mismatch was not addressed by government from the start, when both the educational system and the technical and vocational skills training centers are under its control and supervision? How can DOLE and the wage and productivity boards explain to the working class why wages are pegged at minimum levels below the cost of living, while the government is unable to control the prices of foods, housing, transport and prime commodities?

How can the government pride itself with a sterling economic performance when, at the same breath, it allows increases in SSS premiums, Philhealth and PAG-IBIG contributions, while giving outrageous bonuses to executives who have failed to improve the quality of services to the working class? If the government is doing very well in the economy, why are the costs of getting government clearances, filing fees and other government services are high? Why are taxes regressive and why is government taxing the middle class to death, while giving millions in cash transfers to the indolent and lazy parasites, and allowing the billionaires to evade, avoid and escape taxes and custom duties?

Indeed, how can a poor squatter celebrate the outstanding economic performance so boasted by government, when he is not even sure where to get his next meal? How can those who are still in the tents in evacuation centers find meaning in the economic growth when they have lost everything to Yolanda, Sendong and Ondoy? How can the poorest of the poor join the government in its glee when they are still sleeping in the sidewalks, begging in the streets, selling the flesh of their boys to the cyber sex dens? Really, all these much ado about 7.2 percent economic growth is nothing if the fruits of prosperity only go to the tycoons and magnates, while the poor roam the streets in hunger, ignorance and disease. Pagkapait.

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