Aquino urged to address rich-poor gap

ONE of the pressing issues that the Aquino administration faces is the widening rich-poor gap in the country, said research group Ibon.

The income gap in the latest 2006 government data shows that the share of the top 10 percent families in the income pie was even higher at 36% than the 35% share of the bottom 70% families.

In 2010 according to the Forbes Asia list, the net worth of just the 20 richest Filipinos – including Lucio Tan, Enrique Razon Jr., Eduardo Cojuangco, Enrique Aboitiz and others – reached $20.4 billion, which is likely equivalent to the combined income of about 12 million Filipino families.

“The rich have gotten richer in recent years,” the research group said.

For instance, Enrique Razon Jr., a known ally of former president Gloria Arroyo, is worth $975 million in 2010 from $285 million in 2009, highlighting his rapid accumulation of wealth in the past years.

The net income of the Top 1,000 corporations in the country rose from P116.4 billion in 2001 to average P416.7 billion annually in the period 2002-2008.

On the other hand, workers have seen the smallest increase in their real wages; the minimum wage in the National Capital Region increased just P5 in real terms over the almost decade-long Arroyo term.

Widening poverty is also a pressing issue that requires comprehensive solutions beyond the “good governance” approach, the group said.

Using the approximate P86 a day for the assumed international standard for moderate poverty would show that 79 out of 100 Filipinos were poor in 2006, and half of the population actually struggled on P18-54 a day.

This would have likely increased in the last four years especially with the fuel crisis in 2008, food crisis in 2009, and the climate disasters last year, Ibon added.

The regional disparity of Philippine poverty is also glaring.

More than half of the families in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (55%), 45.5% in Caraga, and 43.7% in Region IV-B were poor.

In contrast, the National Capital Region had 7.1% poor families, followed far behind by Region IV-B (16.8%) and Region III (16.7%).

Meanwhile, Regions VI and V had the biggest share (18.1%) in the total number of poor families.

An urban-rural differentiation of the official poverty statistics also shows that 14 out of 100 urban dwellers and 45 out of 100 rural people were poor in 2006. The rural areas accounted for 75% of Philippine poverty.

According to the research group, which presented its study yesterday at the Ibon Midyear Birdtalk, the past administration’s failed economic policies have caused the country’s broad income inequalities and poverty to grow even wider.

The Aquino government should take steps to reverse these policies and arrest the unparalleled decline in the people’s welfare and escalation of widespread poverty in the country, the group said.

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