While welcoming the reported decrease in official poverty incidence, research group IBON said that the multi-billion peso conditional cash transfer (CCT)-driven result is no reason for complacency. The official figure hopefully reflects improved welfare among tens of millions of the poorest Filipinos, IBON said, but the signs of structural poverty from economic backwardness remain.
The PSA reported population poverty incidence of 21.6% with a magnitude of 22 million poor for the whole year of 2015. According to IBON, however, this uses a very low poverty threshold of just Php60 per person per day and only reflects the situation of Filipinos in extreme poverty. The official methodology grossly underreports real poverty in the country because it uses a conservative food threshold and an outdated and mechanical estimation of non-food expenses, said the group.
IBON observed that the seemingly improved 2015 poverty results likely reflect the cash support given to reportedly 4.6 million beneficiary households. The Aquino administration’s Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) of CCTs cost Php295 billion over six annual national budgets in the 2011-2016 period, including Php64.7 billion for 2015. This is a large enough amount of cash transfers to reflect in incomes reported by poor households in the poverty survey by the Philippine Statistics Office (PSA).
The very slight improvement due to CCTs for Filipinos in extreme poverty should not be taken as an indication of Philippine development, IBON explained. There are other signs of underdevelopment which indicate poverty for tens of millions of poor Filipinos not reflected in the official poverty results, the group said.
This includes how job creation has become much weaker during the supposedly high-growth Aquino administration. Average annual new job creation during the 2011-2015 period of 692,000 was much less than the average of 858,000 during the 2011-2010 period. In 2015, more Filipinos found work abroad than in the country with 4,994 Filipinos deployed daily compared to just 1,775 new jobs created per day in the country.
The quality of domestic employment is also poor with almost two out of three employed (63%) or 24.4 million Filipinos non-regular, agency-hired, informal sector, or unpaid family workers. This means low-paying and insecure work with poor or no benefits. As it is, IBON’s latest national opinion survey in September 2016 had seven out of 10 Filipinos rating themselves as “poor”.
IBON also notes that the reported 21.6% population poverty incidence for the whole year of 2015 is markedly different and smaller than the earlier reported 26.3% for the first semester of 2015. This large difference between earlier semestral and full-year results can also be looked into, the group said. ###