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Lesser poor Filipinos?


cardie roque that's the spirit

THE release of 2018 first semester poverty statistics by the Philippines Statistics Authority (PSA) last week was met with more negative reactions particularly from civil society organizations that advocate poverty alleviation.

As the released statistics show “better” poverty situation in the country compared to same period in 2015, anti-poverty advocates question the accuracy of the figures as they maintain that the poverty situation in our country continues to worsen.

Further confusing the issue are poverty figure estimates of some groups that are higher than the PSA figures.

There should really be no confusion on the matter as the government and other research groups use different standards, bases, and methods of estimating poverty figures.

As poverty figures are established by computing how much a family of a set number of members need for their basic food and non-food requirements in a given period (say a day or month), all these groups, including the PSA, need to clarify and communicate what they consider as basic food and non-food necessities of a Filipino family.

These groups also need to clarify and communicate the prices of food and non-food necessities that they used in computing for the poverty threshold.

Differences in the kinds and prices of food and non-food necessities used in computing the poverty threshold will explain the differences in the poverty figures of the PSA and other groups.

On the PSA figures, many are asking how can a family of five members survive with just R10,481.00 for basic food and non-food necessities. The figure is the official poverty threshold recognized by the government.

We must also take poverty threshold figure and other poverty figures in their proper contexts. The cited PSA poverty threshold figure is a national average figure. Given the differences in the standards of living and commodity prices in the different regions in the country, the threshold is higher for Metro Manila, for example, than in other regions in the country.

Aside from the issue of poverty figures, particularly the PSA figures, the other important issue is on how these figures are communicated to the people. These are important figures because they become the bases for policy and program decisions of the government.

In communicating such figures to the people, the government has to use the “language” of the people. The figures themselves do not mean much to the people but the real life implications of the same are meaningful and essential to them. After all, economically challenged Filipinos do not really care how many fellow Filipinos are on the same boat as they are. What they care about is what the government will do with the poverty figures to enable them to live better lives.