by Jherlyn Meneses/Asianjournal.com
LOS ANGELES – President Gloria Arroyo said soaring oil prices is hurting the country’s fight against widespread poverty, despite high economic growth last year.
“We are aware that no matter how much improvement there is at the top of the economic ladder, many of our people still struggle mightily. The high price of gasoline and everyday commodities hits our poor the hardest. While the high price of oil is a global issue outside the control of government, we have nevertheless taken and will continue to take actions to reduce the pain on our people of these high prices.” she said last Sunday in Cagayan de Oro, where she was guest in a gathering of leaders of cooperatives.
Official figures released last week showed 3.8 million more people have joined the ranks of the poor between 2003 and 2006, amid cuts in social spending and new taxes to boost a narrow revenue base. The data showed one in three Filipinos lives on $1 or less a day.
Although the economy grew at a 31-year high of 7.3 percent last year, when inflation was kept at a 20-year low of 2.8 percent, the Asian Development Bank has said not enough jobs are being created amid insufficient investment and obstacles to growth, such as poor infrastructure.
The Manila-based lender earlier scored the Philippines in a report, saying rampant corruption, political instability and poor revenue collections are the main culprits in the country’s worsening poverty incidence. It also noted that the pace of poverty reduction has been slow and income inequality remains stubbornly high.
“The Philippines must raise revenues, improve infrastructure, strengthen governance to build investor confidence, expand its industrial base and improve access to employment and development opportunities to increase growth and reduce poverty,” the ADB said. It also identified a number of critical constraints to economic growth and the fight against poverty in the next five to eight years for the Philippines.
“Targeting and removal of the most critical constraints will lead to the highest returns for the country. It will spur investment, which in turn will lead to sustained and high growth and create more productive employment opportunities,” said Ifzal Ali, Chief Economist of ADB.
Notwithstanding the ADB review, Arroyo said “Many things are left to be done. I plan on working hard with you the next two years to fulfill our Philippine Reform Agenda until the day I leave office in 2010”.
“We have made tough and unpopular decisions to raise revenues, and we, in the executive [branch of government] crack down on tax cheats so that we could invest in our physical infrastructure and in our people.”