Youth group says 6.4% ‘economic growth’ benefits only the rich

VARIOUS groups slammed the recent 6.4 % increase in the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), dubbed by Malacañang as ‘extraordinary’, saying that its benefits have accrued only to a few while millions live in deep poverty.

The youth group, Anakbayan, dismissed as “delusional” Budget Secretary Florencio Abad’s statement that “these positive figures reaffirm exactly” Aquino’s much-vaunted “kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap”.

“Secretary Abad and Malacañang perceive and portray reality differently from ordinary Filipinos. The growth recorded merely reflects increased economic activity but it does not actually translate to poverty reduction or better quality of life for the people”, said Anakbayan National Chairperson Vencer Crisostomo.

Contrary to their belief that the benefits of “the recent successes” of Aquino’s anti-corruption and anti-poverty campaign are already being felt, poverty, hunger and unemployment continue to rise even as the economy has “grown”.

According to independent think-tank IBON Foundation, out of the 92 million Filipinos in 2010, 65 million or 70% are considered poor, living on P 104 or less per day. In February, sa Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey showed that hunger incidence rose from 4.1 million families to 4.5 million.

As proof of the widening gap between the rich and poor, Anakbayan also cited IBON’s findings that the net worth of 25 richest Filipinos in 2009, US $ 21.4 billion, is equivalent to the combined income in a year of the poorest 11.1 million families.

While the growth translated to 1.1 million in additional jobs according to the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA), it is far-flung from the record-high 11.6 million unemployed and underemployed. The mandated minimum wage, on the other hand, falls far short of providing for a decent living and what business-owners can afford.

Moreover, the national government’s spending on basic social services such as education, health and housing, among others, as a share of gross domestic product has continued to drop.

“If not reducing poverty by not counting the poor (government downplays poverty data by changing methodologies), the Aquino government resorts to a rehash of lies and exaggerations that his flagship Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) program has reduced poverty”, said Crisostomo.

“In fact the CCT, cited as part of ‘increased government spending’—a major player in the GDP growth—will result in a heavier debt burden for Filipinos, an estimated US $ 508.5 million in 25 years”, the youth leader added.

The group also assailed the Aquino government for “not doing enough to prepare for the looming global economic downturn worst than the 2008 crisis” and for continuously implementing failed and inequitable neoliberal policies of globalization such as elimination of tariffs, deregulation of important industries and privatization of social services and government agencies.

To date, the Philippine economy relies heavily on export of cheap raw materials or semi-processed goods, OFW remittances, tourism and foreign-dictated programs—the CCT and Public Private Partnership (PPP) Projects—that have caused damage to people’s dwellings and livelihood and foreign loans from ADB and IMF-World Bank which have greatly contributed to the worsening quality of life of millions of people in the world.

“Centers of capitalism, the country’s major export markets, are in a deep crisis. We have every reason to doubt the sustainability of the economic growth in the coming months”, Crisostomo said.

“There is no substitute for strengthening the domestic economy through strategic agricultural development and creation of national industries with genuine agrarian reform as base. For a start, we challenge the landlord-comprador president to have a change of heart in redistributing wealth: implement the 125 across-the-board wage increase.”

“While it may not bring a decent standard of living to poor Filipino workers, a substantial wage increase will give immediate relief to their families. Stop being greedy. Workers should share the fruits of the economic growth instead of just benefiting a few”, he said.

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