Poverty and inequality

Published in The Freeman (Philippine Star), October 24, 2017

All of us may have different opinions on what the government is and what is its purpose for the people it governs. And of course, we each have maybe slightly different expectations on what it should do for each of us in terms of our needs. But if we look back at all the national government plans the Philippines had in the last 30 years (or even farther back), we would see that there are two distinct overall goals that’s common and unchanging regardless of which administration it is/was. And these two goals address poverty and inequality.

The difficulty in comprehending the specifics of our national goals is because, while everyone agrees on these two and the rest of the cascading sectoral goals, the corresponding objectives directed in achieving them are as varied as they are widespread. Working on specific objectives is easier, and the thought that for as long as we are achieving them, we are contributing to the realization of the goals usually limits us to work and fight for certain issues and causes one at a time. But sectoral objectives do not necessarily harmonize with each other and indeed do oftentimes clashes. Thus, emerge the plurality of rights and groups defending them.

But let’s look closer at poverty and inequality, or more correctly, social inequality. The main goal of any national plan, or more especially of those of developing countries, is to eradicate poverty. Well, maybe just decrease it a little, as much as we can, within the plan period, for everybody understands this is easier said than done. Many of the world’s developmental organizations look at a target of 2030 to eradicate poverty globally, or put it down to the barest few percent. Some countries may achieve these well ahead of others, but really, no country has been able to prove that they don’t have any poor people with them. But the sad fact is, we still have many poor, underdeveloped or developing, third-world countries where poverty is so widespread it weighs down the tempo of their development.

The Paraisópolis favela (Paradise City shanty town) borders the affluent district of Morumbi, Sao Paolo, Brazil. (lifted from Oxfam America)

Not that there are no rich people in developing countries. In fact, the gap between the rich and the poor seems to be more glaring in poorer countries and communities. This is where the issue of inclusiveness becomes important. Economic development is driven by capital and labor but most of its fruits go to those who have the capital. Development growth is measured by Gross Domestic Product (GDP), and is averaged on a per capital basis. But the gross disproportionate distribution of wealth results in a few who are extremely rich against the bulk of the masses who are extremely poor. Thus, the need for the second overall goal of equitable distribution of the fruits of development.

Easier said than done -high GDP growth rates will mean nothing to poverty alleviation if there is no trickle-down effect. The rich will become richer and the poor, poorer. For growth to be real and meaningful, it has to be inclusive.

1 thought on “Poverty and inequality”

  1. The gap between the rich and the poor in the Philippines is very apparrent, such that the middle class is a vanishing breed. There will come a time that there will only be the very poor and the very rich.I pray that this social inequality be addresed by the government , lest there be a violent upheaval of the poor who constitute majority of our population.

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