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NSCB: Poverty rate was stagnant in 2009

Calamities to blame

By Michelle Remo
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 06:19:00 05/28/2010

Filed Under: Poverty, Statistics, Disasters (general), Ondoy

MANILA, Philippines?Poverty incidence is likely to have remained at one-third of the total population in 2009 as efforts to lift income levels were negated by natural calamities and the global recession, according to the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB).

Preliminary indicators from the two rounds of surveys conducted by the agency last year showed no improvement in the poverty rate in 2009 from that of 2006, when the poverty rate stood at 33 percent of the population, said NSCB Secretary General Romulo Virola.

?The typhoons that hit the country in the latter part of the year [2009] adversely affected incomes, and so there might be no improvement in the poverty incidence,? said Virola in an ambush interview following a press conference announcing the economy?s 1st quarter performance.

Three-year cycle

The Philippines? population stood at about 89 million in 2006. Last year, the population was estimated at 92 million.

The government gathers and releases data on poverty incidence once every three years. The poverty rate for 2009 will be formally announced in the first quarter of 2011.

Virola said the NSCB conducted two rounds of surveys on income levels last year?in early part of the third quarter and in the fourth quarters following the onslaught of typhoons ?Ondoy? and ?Pepeng.?

The first round indicated a slight improvement from the 2006 poverty incidence levels, he said. However, the second round had discouraging results.

Ondoy-Pepeng damage

Economists said the back-to-back calamities that hit the country in September and October 2009 not only led to the loss of many lives but to loss of property as well, which adversely affected the operations of small businesses and employment.

Ondoy damaged infrastructure and other properties in Metro Manila and nearby provinces. Pepeng, which struck mainly the provinces in the North, damaged farm properties and crops.

Virola said the global economic turmoil last year hampered efforts to boost the economy and reduce the proportion of poor Filipinos.

According to revised figures from the NSCB, the Philippines grew by 1.1 percent last year, much slower than the 3.7 percent recorded the previous year.

Last year?s decelerated growth was largely blamed on the contraction of export earnings amid anemic global demand for electronics, the Philippines? major export product, and for other non-essentials.

Although the economy managed to grow, it was not enough to reduce the proportion of poor Filipinos, according to the economists. The economy needed to sustain a growth rate of at least 7 percent over the medium term to reduce poverty incidence, they said.
No trickle-down effect

The Arroyo administration has trumpeted the continued growth of the economy as one of its achievements, but this means nothing to critics who say it failed to reduce poverty.

The rising income of the overall economy is not trickling down to the poor, they said.

Runaway population growth has also been blamed for the failure to reduce poverty incidence amid a growing economy as the benefits of economic growth are being negated by increasing numbers of people.

Economic Planning Secretary Augusto Santos, however, expressed the hope that poverty incidence would start declining this year, citing the economy?s 1st quarter growth that exceeded expectations.

The government yesterday announced that the economy, measured in gross domestic product, grew by 7.3 percent in the first quarter from a year ago.

This was the fastest pace of annual growth since the third quarter of 2007. In the second quarter of 2007, the economy grew by 8.3 percent.

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