By: John Carlo Tria
THE latest economic numbers show that projected economic growth is expected to hover at the same 6%, making our economic growth story a consistent one since the start if of the current decade- among Asia’s best performers.
Not even the global economic slowdown affecting other economies seems to substantially harm our growth efforts.
As I have explained in a previous article, this is boosted by lower inflation due to lower food prices, and bolstered by the interest rate cut that will lower lending rates by early next year, expanding business.
Another set of numbers seem to validate my earlier observations. The Social Weather Stations (SWS) released last Monday the results of their latest self-rated poverty survey.
The September surveys say that the percentage of families that categorized themselves as “poor” fell to 42% in September 2019, from 45% in June 2019. The 42% self-rated poverty rate is also six percentage points lower than the four-quarter average in 2018.
The same survey showed that 29% of families considered their food as “poor” in September 2019, compared to June 2019, when 35% of families believed they were food poor.
This is the first self-rated poverty survey taken after the imposition of the rice tarrification law that has reduced retail rice prices leading to a drastic fall in inflation figures- and food costs.
It is useful to reiterate that for the majority of Filipinos, rice remains to be at 50% of total food costs. The ten peso drop in the staple price means savings of at least 200 pesos per month for the poor family that consumes 20 kilos of rice per month, particularly for the 20 million or so poor Filipinos. That is big savings for most. If they choose even cheaper varieties of rice, their savings will even be higher.
Note, however, that self rated poverty is based on a perception of the surveyed respondent, not on actual numbers. It is, nonetheless a barometer to tell us whether policies are indeed having an impact on the vulnerable poor as they see it.
With these results, it looks like recent policies have impacted them positively. What remains to be done is to improve price stability or seek further reductions in other food costs, such as pork, chicken and vegetables. Policies will be needed for other commodities to improve their production and distribution.
In the last two years several landmark policies affecting the socio-economic well being of the majority of Filipinos, ( their daily lives) such as free state college tuition, free Universal health care, PUV modernization, lower rice prices, the 5-year drivers license renewal, tax reforms that absolve majority of taxpayers from income taxes- all meant to boost the middle class as an economic driver by their increased purchasing power, and a source of political stability rather than instability, as we can see in recent history.
What would this mean for those opposing government and its policies? You tell me. They may have an even tougher time garnering voter support if they want to undo their loss in the 2019 elections, and perform credibly in the 2022 elections. Their bankability as political actors has been eroded, and with positive number such as these, their political future is not promising.
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