Poverty negates 7.1% growth

MANILA— If the high unemployment rate and poverty incidence were to serve as basis for determining economic growth, government’s claim that it accelerated to 7.1 percent for the third quarter of this year sounds incredulous, militant lawmakers said Thursday.

In a Quezon City news forum, Representatives Nery Colmenares (Bayan Muna) and Antonio Tinio (ACT Teachers party-list) said the fast-paced economic growth had failed to translate into the well being of the poor and the jobless, thus, the 7.1 percent economic growth could easily be disputed.

Economic think tank Ibon Research Foundation backed the observation of the two militant solons, saying that the unemployment rate in the country remains worst in Southeast Asia.

“The 7.1 percent growth in gross domestic product (GDP) in the third quarter of 2012 happened amid a poor jobs situation in the same period. This highlights that the problem of jobless growth is not being resolved,” the research group said.

Colmenares said the 49 to 50 percent increase in poverty incidence is a glaring indication that the optimistic economic figures released Wednesday by the National Statistical Coordination Board has not supported the poverty issue.

“Napakataas pa rin ng unemployment rate so hindi siya (7.1 growth) dumudugtong. They should redefine the meaning of employed to mean that whether or not you are looking for a job but you are qualified to work, that means you should be classified as unemployed,” Colmenares told reporters during the Usaping Balita News Forum in Quezon City.

Tinio lamented that although the improving economy is driven by money sent by overseas Filipino workers, mostly belonging to urban and rural poor, it failed to address their economic status.

“BPO (business processing outsourcing) is heavily relying on foreign investment. We all know this is volatile,” he added.

Ibon foundation revealed that the country’s poor jobs situation despite rapid growth is explained by the sources of growth.

“In the first three quarters of 2012, growth came mainly from the services sector which has relatively weak job creation potential, productivity and earnings compared to manufacturing and a modern agriculture sector. The service sector grew faster at 7.5% in the first nine months of 2012 from 4.8% in the same period last year, particularly due to the wholesale and retail trade subsector,” the research group said.

Ibon added: “In contrast, manufacturing sector growth was unchanged at 5.3% while the agriculture sector slowed to 1.8% from 4.9% in the same period last year.

Official job estimates in the third quarter of 2012 (July round) showed just a 477,000-increase in total employed to 37.6 million from the same period in 2011, or less than half the target of one million new jobs per year.”

According to the group, the “official unemployment rate” in the country has not virtually moved from 7.1 percent in 2011 to 7.0 this year.

A total of 2.8 million Filipinos remain unemployed.
IBON’s alternative estimate correcting for the change in definition in 2005 shows unemployment at a higher 4.6 million.”

Meanwhile, Aurora Rep. Juan Edgardo Angara called on the government to wage a different kind of revolution: ensuring that the benefits of sustained economic growth are felt by all, especially the poor.

The three-term solon said the country is in the best possible position to ensure that progress remains equitable, as the economy grew by 7.1 percent in the third quarter, surpassing the most bullish expectations.