Inflation lower but poorest Filipino families still struggle with high prices

March 6, 2019

by IBON Foundation

Families struggling with meager incomes still have to put up with high prices even amid lower inflation posted in February 2019. Research group IBON said that the poor majority of Filipino households are still having difficulty making ends meet with prices remaining high.

Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) figures show that headline inflation slowed further to 3.8% in February 2019 from 4.4% the month before. It is now at the same level as it was in February 2018.

But lower inflation figures only mean that prices are rising at a slower pace, IBON noted. Consumers still face higher prices. From February 2018 to February 2019, the price per kilogram of commercial well milled rice rose from Php40 to Php44; white refined sugar from Php50 to Php60; fish (bangus) from Php140 to Php160; and pork (liempo) from Php235 to Php240.

IBON said that it is harder for poor families to cope with rising prices today because inflation has already eroded their incomes by anywhere from Php3,300 to Php7,300 in 2018. Worse, according to PSA data, inflation was much higher at 5.9% for the poorest 30% of the population compared to 4.4% for the entire population in January 2019.

The trend of slowing inflation in the last four months may also come to an end soon, IBON warned. Inflationary pressures include rising global oil prices since the middle of February, the domino effect of the second tranche of Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) law oil excise taxes, and even the eventual phase-out of subsidized Php27 NFA rice especially for the poorest Filipinos.

IBON stressed that the government can take measures to moderate inflation and give Filipinos relief. For instance, TRAIN’s inflationary taxes can be suspended and affordable NFA rice continued. Wages can also be increased substantially such as to a national minimum wage of Php750. ###