Inquirer Headlines: Nation

A World with Extreme Poverty is a World of Insecurity.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Report notes Philippines' slow progress in reducing poverty

BusinessWorld / 9 October / Bernadette S. Sto. Domingo

DEVELOPING COUNTRIES, including the Philippines, are not on track to achieving all United Nations-led goals of cutting poverty in half by 2015 — or the socalled The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) — a report released yesterday said.

For the Philippines, in particular, efforts to reduce poverty and hunger have been slower than some of its neighbors, although still better than the Asian average.

The report, “The MDGs: Progress in Asia and the Pacific 2007,” said “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 Philippines, for its part, “has given high priority to achieving the MDGs,” report author Shiloh Chatterjee told reporters. “The Philippines is making tremendous effort to achieve these goals. Among countries in Asia, it’s one of those who have given high priority to focusing on MDGs. What’s necessary is local governments are supported in terms of policies, institutions, and capacities.”

The eight MDGs — targeted for achievement by 2015 — formed a blueprint agreed to by all the world’s nations and leading global development institutions. The eight MDGs are: eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, achieve universal primary education, promote gender equality, reduce child mortality, improve maternal health, combat HIV/ AIDS malaria and other diseases, ensure environmental sustainability, as well as develop a global partnership for development.

The report, produced through a partnership among the Asian Development Bank, United Nations Development Program and the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, said the eighth development goal, which seeks to create a global partnership for development, calls for enhanced market access.

“The best way to provide additional momentum would be to conclude the Doha Development Round which would add legal certainty to least developed countries’ duty and quota-free access to developed-country markets,” the report said.

The Philippines has made slow progress in eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, cutting its 1990 poverty rate of 19.8% to just 14.8% in 2004. While Asia’s average poverty rate fell to 17% from 32%, China was able to slash its poverty rate to 9.9% from 33%. “The Philippines has traveled half the distance towards the target [of 9.9%] over the period… it is slowly moving towards the target, but will come very close to it by 2015,” the report said.

The country made no progress at all in the area of achieving universal primary education with a decrease in its primary enrolment ratio to 94.4% in 2003 from 96.5% in 1991. The number of children reaching grade five also dropped to 71.5% from 75.3%. It also lagged behind in the area of ensuring environmental sustainability, while it registered slow progress in providing improved drinking water resources and sanitation facilities to rural areas.

In the area of reducing underfive mortality and infant mortality as well as cutting HIV prevalence, the country remains on track, the report said.

But the Philippines has already achieved the goals of promoting gender equality and empowering women.

Mr. Chatterjee said, “I’ve seen a lot of evidence that the Philippines is giving very high importance to education and health.”

“Fast, effective delivery of public goods and services is a demonstration by a government of its commitment to reach the very neediest,” ADB chief economist Ifzal Ali said in an interview. “This is, to my mind, an acid test… Otherwise, everything is just rhetoric; nothing is real.

A progress report on MDGs, part of a National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) report to World Bank executives last Sept. 17, showed the Philippines having high chances of achieving four MDGs by 2015. These are: eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, reducing child mortality, combating HIV/ AIDS, malaria and other diseases, and ensuring that families have access to safe drinking water.

But NEDA admitted the Philippines had problems in achieving universal primary education, reducing maternal mortality and increasing use of contraceptives. The Philippines committed to the MDGs — quantitative targets designed to improve human conditions — in September 2000. The goals are incorporated in the UN Millennium Declaration, which targets the reduction of extreme poverty by 2015. — Bernardette S. Sto. Domingo