Inquirer Headlines: Nation

A World with Extreme Poverty is a World of Insecurity.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Population Growth, Poverty, MDGs

Rapid population growth barrier to reaching MDGs
10/16/2007 11:59 AM /

The Philippines's rapid population growth rate is one of the primary reasons hindering the country from attaining the millenium development goals, as it dilutes the impact of economic growth and policy improvements, a joint report by the government and the United Nations showed.

In a statement, the Philippine Legislators Committee on Population and Development Foundation Inc., said that the Philippines, with a growth rate that is one of the highest in Asia, still has a long way to go before it makes noteworthy progress on the eight MDGs.

"Among the challenges and priorities for action that must be viewed with urgency is the rapid population growth," the PLCPD said, quoting the Philippines Midterm Progress Report on MDGs jointly released by the UN and the National Economic and Development Authority.

"Rapid population growth rate is closely linked to persistent poverty as it reduces overall economic growth and prospects for poverty reduction. It strains the environment as competition for scarce resources and public goods expands," the report continues.

If the rapid growth of the Philippines's population is not addressed, PLCPD said the country's population would hit 102.55 million by 2015, a number sure to tax the Philippine economy and environment. However, PLCPD said that as of now, the government is doing very little to address this problem.

“The Philippines, along with 191 member states of the United Nations, signed the Millennium Declaration in September 2000. Eight years after, the country still lacks a comprehensive national law that would address our population management problem," said Ramon San Pascual, executive director of the PLCPD.

San Pascual said that the current administration has instead let local government units shoulder the burden of implementing policy on population and reproductive health. "However, without sufficient budget allocation from the (national) government, any LGU efforts will not be sustained," San Pascual said.

There are eight MDGs that should be achieved by 2015: halving extreme poverty, achieving universal primary education, promoting gender equality and empowerment, reducing child mortality, improving maternal health, halting the spread of HIV/AIDS and other diseases, ensuring environmental sustainability, and developing a global partnership for development.

However, a report by the Asian Development Bank, has showed that no developing country in the Asia-Pacific region, including the Philippines, will be able to meet all millennium development goals by 2015.

“The region still faces quite a challenge. Most of the developing countries can point to success in some of the goals, but none is on course to achieve all of them," the regional lender's The Millennium Development Goals: Progress in Asia and the Pacific 2007 report said.

Philippine hits and misses

The ADB said that among the 21 criteria under seven MDGs, the Philippines is either slow or showing no progress in nine categories. There are eight MDGs: halving extreme poverty, achieving universal primary education, promoting gender equality and empowerment, reducing child mortality, improving maternal health, halting the spread of HIV/AIDS and other diseases, ensuring environmental sustainability, and developing a global partnership for development, by the target date of 2015-- but the ADB study did not release a rating for the global partnership goal.

The multilateral lender noted that the Philippines is slow in reducing the number of its population living in $1 a day, reducing the number of underweight children, providing sufficient water, and improved sanitation both in rural areas.

The Philippines, the ADB report said, is either showing no progress or even regressing in the MDG criteria of number of primary education enrollees, number of those able to reach 5th grade, forest cover, carbon dioxide emission and water accessibility in urban areas.

However, the ADB also said the Philippines is an early achiever in the following MDG criteria: primary completion rate, gender primary, gender secondary, gender tertiary, tuberculosis prevalence rate, turbeculosis death rate, increasing the number of its protected areas, and ozone-depleting CFCs consumption.

Besides this, the ADB lauded the Philippines for making progress in reducing under-five mortality, infant mortality, people with HIV, and improving urban sanitation.


Reminders for our war against poverty

ROSES & THORNS By Alejandro R. Roces / Tuesday, October 16, 2007 / Philippine Star

Tomorrow, October 17, marks the 20th anniversary celebration of the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. United Nations’ theme for this year is “People living in poverty as agents of change.” It is ironic that many countries all over the world are developing and experiencing economic growth, yet destitution and poverty still exist. Global trend forecasts show this to continue in the year 2020 particularly in East Asian countries. Driving forces are population growth, the unabated abuse of natural resources and if left unchecked, a possible pandemic.

Readers may say this is particularly true in our country where the common opinion is that the economic advancement being claimed by the present administration cannot be felt where many still languish in hunger and poverty. A Social Weather Station report in March 2007 indicates that around 17 million Filipinos or 19% of the population are hungry, while 45 million Filipinos or 53% of families saw themselves as poor. The positive news, according to the recent UN report, is that the number of people living in extreme poverty in our country is decreasing, with the proportion of families below the poverty threshold falling to 24.4 percent in July this year, compared to the same month in 1990. The same report, which will be released worldwide this October, says the Philippines’ poverty alleviation targets are “on track” and that statistics point to the fact that economic gains having trickled down to the grassroots.

The fact remains, however, that more than 50 percent of the labor force or roughly 16.1 million Filipino workers, mostly unskilled workers and agricultural laborers earn P5,000-8,000 (P33-53 per person per day for a family of 5), an income level that hovers around the 2007 poverty threshold pegged at P40 per person per day, according to the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB). The workers’ low income, combined with high prices of goods and services, fuels poverty and hunger in the country.

More than 10 million people live in Metro Manila alone. This means 10% of the total population live in the metropolis. We can just imagine the congestion of people and establishments in an area of 636 square kilometers, where the density rate is 15,700 people per square kilometer. Population grows as more people move from the rural to urban areas in search of economic opportunities and of course due to a natural increase in number of births. This rapid urbanization leads to the lack and deterioration of existing resources, which includes the lack of clean drinking water, water shortage, sanitation and garbage problems, air and noise pollution, to name a few.

There are over one million Filipino street children at present. Starving children are victims and they should get top priority in the aspect of education and health.

The future of our country in a highly globalized economy will depend on its greatest resources, the Filipino people. We must involve the poor and the disadvantaged if meaningful change is to be realized. For a people who work together with one mind and spirit, for the future of their children, winning this war against poverty will not be difficult.