The National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC) launched Thursday a new policy paper it said should redefine the government’s anti-poverty programs as well as economic policies.
In a forum held in Quezon City, NAPC lead convenor Sec. Liza Maza said the new blueprint seeks to realign the many and disjointed anti-poverty and economic programs of the government into a unified human rights approach to eradicating poverty in the Philippines.
“We have given President Rodrigo Duterte an advanced copy of the paper last December 8 and we are waiting for the first opportunity to present it in detail,” Maza said.
The paper entitled “Reforming Philippine Anti-Poverty Policy” and written by four experts pushes for the creation of decent and sufficient jobs and incomes as the main strategy in poverty eradication.
The book also highlights the importance of structural transformation of the economy, including agriculture and industrial production as the long-term basis of national development goals.
“We need to create decent and sufficient employment with living wages to improve the quality of life of most Filipinos,” Maza said.
A product of a year’s worth of work by the NAPC, the paper argues that poverty eradication should be the centerpiece of economic, social, cultural and environmental policies.
Anti-poor economic policies
The book identified the government’s neoliberal economic policies as the greatest contributor to the ever-growing poverty in the country.
“What this new anti-poverty framework is saying is that our economy has not developed under neo-liberal policies since the 1980s,” lead writer and IBON executive director Jose Enrique Africa said.
“The only reason why manufacturing in the Philippines has been on a decline, and along with it our economy, is the implementation of globalization,” he added.
Africa said the Philippines is now suffering its worst unemployment rate he pegged at nine percent, contrary to government declarations of five percent after changed methodologies.
The economic expert said the agriculture sector suffered the most number of job loss, only partially offset by temporary jobs created in the services sector.
Africa said poverty eradication is only possible through the alignment of the Philippine economy with the government’s anti-poverty programs.
“The problem is, these two are compartamentalized from each other,” Africa said.
The paper said the government must reorient Philippine economy toward national industrialization led by Filipino companies, land reform and rural development, and pro-poor social policy.
The paper’s recommendations include:
- Promotion of Filipino industries,
- Review of international economic deals,
- Regulation of foreign investment for development,
- Complete agrarian reform,
- State-directed financing for development,
- Grater infrastructure development, and
- More progressive taxation.
Africa however added that the Duterte government’s Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion Law is in fact reggressive and anti-poor.
Africa added that there is no such thing as spontaneous economic development under free market conditions.
“Economic development for poverty eradication needs government control and direction,” he said.
Maza admitted that the paper is expected to face rough sailing with government agencies such as the National Economic Development Authority that has championed neo-liberal economic policies like globalization and less public spending for social services.
“We are fully aware there are many roadblocks against the adoption of this framework,” Maza said.
“A human rights-based approach to poverty eradication and genuine economic development is not the dominant thinking in government. But we are counting on the fact the President Duterte has gone against the tide several times,” she said.
Maza said the NAPC will also try to seek the support of like-minded officials in the Duterte government and capitalize on the support of those who agree on some of the proposals of the paper.
“We hope that with their agreement on some of the contents of this paper, it will be the basis of unity for its adoption,” Maza said.
“We are here to challenge, to push this framework,” she added. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)