Posted tagged ‘poverty’

RURAL DEVELOPMENT SHOULD BE TOP PRIORITY WORLDWIDE

August 26, 2010

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

Good evening from the Philippines’ highland suburbs!

For this note I will focus on the thesis that rural development should be pursued by developing countries. The world’s nations have pursued growth that has been badly skewed towards urbanization and commercialization since after World War II, a total effort that has seen many people become poor as a result. Most of the poor folks are in rural hinterlands and fisherfolks.

The Philippines is a classic case in point that has been direly affected by the badly skewed development in favor of urbanization, an endeavor that has been fostered at the expense of rural communities of farmers, fisherfolks, and Indigenous Peoples or IPs. Today, Philippine population is 66% urban and 34% rural, with 2% added to urban population every year.

As urbanization grows, rural poverty likewise grows in my beloved country. Rural to urban poverty ratio here is 2.5:1 and is still moving up. It was 2.1:1 in 1989, and the situation has been deteriorating ever since. 70% of the country’s poor families are rural, with only 30% as urban. Very clearly, between the two, it is rural development that must be pursued with vigor to reverse the poverty situation in the country as a whole.

To demonstrate what I mean by skewed development, consider the following information:

ü  MetroManila or simply Manila, the national capital region (NCR), produces 30% or nearly 1/3 of the nation’s wealth. Yet it supports merely 12% o3 1/8 of the nation’s population.

ü  As of end of 2009, Manila contributed a whopping US $65 Billion to the country’s $186 Billion GDP or gross domestic product. Using UNDP converter index, Manila’s GDP, multiplied by 4, registered an enviable $260 Billion-Purchasing Power Parity or PPP for 2009, rendering it as wealthy as the whole of Vietnam.

ü  Included among the world’s 35 most wealthy and powerful mega-cities—comprising the ‘global nexus’—Manila’s economy remains at 65% services and 35% industries, with nary a food base worth documenting. These economic sectors are the highest in value-added, ensuring high levels of income for all component cities and towns of the mega-city.

ü  Poverty in Manila has been reduced to a manageable 8%, rendering it on an even much better situation than the USA’s whose poverty incidence had climbed from 12% in 2002 to 15% today. Manila has all the resources it needs to solve its own poverty and development problems, which made it drastically reduce poverty since the 1990s.

ü  Therefore, Manila should no longer be subsidized by national government in terms of development projects, from roads to international airports (Los Angeles & US cities are building their own airports without federal or state government support). Yet, as records show, billions of dollars are still being poured by national government to bankroll gigantic projects here, such as lightrail systems, international airport expansion, and flood control.

ü  On top of those national government-initiated projects is Pagcor City, a world-class theme park-cum-gaming complex that is costing U.S. $25 Billion (with private participation). It will employ 250,000 and will house the world’s tallest tower. It is targeted for completion in 2014.

So, as you can see from the Philippine case, whereas the mega-city receives billions of dollars for new projects and urban renewal, the rural areas continue to wallow in appalling states of abject poverty. Lucky enough if a region outside Manila would be appropriated P1 Billion or U.S. $24 Million at any given year from the pork barrels of Congress.

Fisherfolks in my country are particularly the most vulnerable to poverty and deleterious living conditions spawned by it. With poverty incidence at 66%, you could easily see why past 40% of fisherfolks’ children suffer from advanced malnutrition. The situation of over-fishing in the entire country compounds the poverty situation of marginal fisherfolks who can ill afford to equip themselves with state-of-the art fishing gears to compete with commercial fishers.

To say that the Philippines is in a transition phase, and that poverty and malnutrition will disappear it time as the country reaches development ‘maturity’, is pure delusion. Without active intervention to improve the capacities and capabilities of fisherfolks, farmers, and IPs, the problem of poverty will never fade away but will, as a matter of fact, worsen with time.

With so many rural folks wallowing in cesspools of pauperization, we can at best watch more rural insurgencies feast upon the resentment-filled minds of the rural poor. As the Philippine case has shown, past rural insurgencies have ceased only to be replaced by new, bigger, and more ferocious insurgencies.

[Philippines, 11 August 2010]

[See: IKONOKLAST: http://erleargonza.blogspot.com,

UNLADTAU: https://unladtau.wordpress.com,

COSMICBUHAY: http://cosmicbuhay.blogspot.com,

BRIGHTWORLD: http://erlefraynebrightworld.wordpress.com, ARTBLOG: http://erleargonza.wordpress.com,

ARGONZAPOEM: http://argonzapoem.blogspot.com]

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POVERTY: PHILIPPINES‘ ACHILLES HEEL

March 23, 2010

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

Poverty is the Achilles’ heel of the Philippine state, and will be so for at least two (2) more decades. Amid the appreciable growth the economy has sustained so far, with the national economy doubling in just eight (8) years during the incumbency of president Gloria Arroyo, poverty remains very high.

If we go by the yardsticks of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the World Bank, the Philippines has been performing fairly well on wealth production as a whole, so much that the country graduated to a middle income status by the turn of the century. No more a poor economy by world standards, yet the country’s poverty increased from 28% in 2001 (when Arroyo took over the presidency) to 33% today (per latest government statistics).

Paradoxical, come to think of it, that while the economy has been growing and had moved to middle income status, more people have become poorer. Tough, very tough, is the task of mining for the ‘gini in the bottle’ that would reduce poverty considerably to a negligible 5% or less, a level that is easily manageable and where state and communities can simply decide to fully subsidize the remaining poor.

Whether the Philippines can meet the UN’s Millenium Development Goal of cutting poverty by half in 2015 seems much clearer now to social forecasters: the dream is elusive and unattainable. Not even if the economy will double again from mid-2009 to 2015 which is a most likely development.

The Philippines’ poorest happens to be the rural populations, notably the fisherfolk sector where malnutrition runs the highest rate (2/3 of children/families). Rural population is now down to 34% or 1/3 of the population, while the urban peoples comprise 66% or 2/3. Urban to rural poverty ratio is 1:2.5, meaning that for every 1 poor person in the cities & towns, there’s an equivalent of 2.5 persons in the countrysides.

The message is clear to the next government (formed by the new president after the May polls this year) that the attack zone on poverty should be the rural population. Both antipoverty and anti-hunger programs should be initiated at very high levels in the countryside to be able to bring down total poverty by a large degree.

Failure to solve rural poverty in the long run redounds to perpetuating insurgency. Even if the present insurgent groups would concur peace pacts with the state, new insurgent groups will emerge again in the foreseeable future should the rural folks remain paupers.

Urbanization is now moving up, and with its growing eminence has come the rise of new cities. Citification has seen the incomes of communities treble by leaps and bounds, thus permitting the same communities to spend on infrastructures and social development.

Left to themselves, without massive migrations from rural folks, the cities can accumulate enormous income surpluses to solve unemployment, poverty, and malnutrition (both hunger and obesity). Philanthropic groups consequently rise from civil society and market players, and boost surplus production for solving poverty.

However, such is not the case even as the migration of the poor from the countryside to the cities continues in steady waves. So this brings us all back to the challenge of solving poverty right at the backyards where the poorest are most concentrated. This means that the food producers shouldn’t be left out in the development game, even as rural development should be brought to its next level.

Goal-wise, the realistic target is to reduce poverty from 33% in 2009 to 25% by 2015, or an average of 1.33% reduction per annum. Means-wise, an appreciable mix of good governance, right socio-economic policies, and strengthening of institutions would do a long way to bring down poverty altogether in the short run.

Urban population will grow to 70% around 2015, while rural population will go down further to 30%. With lower rural populations to manage by then, there is no more reason for government not to be able to do something to solve poverty. And we say government, because the increase in poverty largely came from governance-related factors such as poor absorptive capacity (to handle large budgets), inefficiency, graft, poor inter-governmental coordination, and low political will to pursue audacious solutions to daunting problems.

In 1989, this analyst wrote an article “Prospects of Poverty Alleviation in the 1990s,” a piece that I delivered as a symposium lecture at the University of the East (Prof. Randy David was also a speaker). At that time, poverty was a high of 49%, while urban to rural poverty was 1:2.1.

Since 1989, we have seen poverty reduced from 49% to its present level of 33% (a 5% increase since 2001 though), although rural poverty moved up paradoxically during the same period. Poverty reduction is not really impossible, as evidenced by the huge reduction across a 20-year period. Bringing it down further to 25% by 2015 is a doable target.

So let us see how the nation will fair under the next government of the republic (after May polls), when we see a new set of political leaders and cabinet members installed to power. As I’ve mentioned in earlier articles, my standpoint is that a nationalist coalition, such as what the present candidate Sen. Manny Villar, is most equipped with policy paradigm and tools to deal with the Achilles heel of pauperism, aside from the competence and visionary acumen of the noblesse senator.

By nationalist, I mean that of moving towards a regulated market and fair trade, with high propensity for ‘physical economy’ policies. We can no more return to the days of liberalization policies that saw the economy crash down in ’83-’85, stagnate for a time and grow again before hitting the next recession in ’97, and finally move up to middle income status only after a turtle pace struggle taking three (3) decades.

Liberalism and its propensity to be pro-Big Business and Big Landlord is a big no in our fight against poverty, whether in the Philippines and other nations of the globe. In my country, nationalism is the antidote paradigm and social technology watershed to reverse decades of liberal policies and solution to poverty. I’ve been echoing this theme since my teenage years yet, and remains steadily anchored on it.

[Philippines, 20 March 2010]

INDIA’S RURAL SALVATION COULD BE SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE

August 26, 2008

Erle Frayne Argonza

 

Good morning from Manila!

 

India’s rural poor is very high in frequency as its overall rural population is still at an all-time high of 80%. No matter how heated the industrialization efforts are at the moment, it will take time before the benefits of industrialization will permeate the rural folks.

 

It is no wise action to force rural areas to commercial urbanization as an option to alleviate urban poverty.

 

[15 August 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila. Thanks to eldis.org database news.]

 

 

Sustainable agriculture: a pathway out of poverty for India’s rural poor

Produced by: Deutsche Gessellschaft fur Technische Zusammenarbeit (2008)

Millions of farmers in remote rural areas of India struggle to feed themselves and their families, while the resources on which they depend are deteriorating daily. This book shows how sustainable agriculture can help India’s farmers – especially those in poor, remote areas – pull themselves out of poverty.

The book details 14 examples of how development initiatives have helped farmers in some of the remotest parts of the country break out of the cycle of poverty, debt and environmental degradation, and improve their lives and livelihoods through agriculture that is economically, ecologically and socially sustainable.

The examples fall into three areas:

  • organic agriculture
  • land and water management
  • improving market access for small-scale farmers.

These examples were selected not only due to their success, but also because they have the potential to be replicated on a large scale. The analysis and lessons are intended to be applied to a wide variety of situations, not just in India, but also throughout the world. The authors argue that such large-scale application is vital if the Millennium Development Goals of eradicating extreme poverty and hunger and ensuring environmental sustainability are to be met.

Available online at: http://www.eldis.org/cf/rdr/?doc=38679&em=310708&sub=agric

NGOs & UN DEVELOPMENT

August 4, 2008

Erle Frayne Argonza

Good morning!

A global fund for natural disasters is among the top agenda of the world body and its partner NGOs. The frequency and ferocity of quirk earthquakes and cyclones has prompted concerned institutions to ‘call to arms’ and address the disaster effects properly.

A relevant news is contained below.

[29 July 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila. Thanks to DevEx database news.]

 

UN, NGO and General News Round-Up

The UN has proposed a USD 10 billion global fund to help poor countries cope with natural disasters the world body said were occurring with ever more frequency and ferocity, Reuters reported. A UN report on factors creating world economic insecurity said the existing response to floods and earthquakes of emergency appeals and voluntary contributions should be boosted with a permanent facility, possibly under UN auspices. In a trend some have linked with global warming, more than four times as many disasters occurred annually between 2000 and 2006 than during the 1970s, the report said. The damage costs were seven times higher at an average of $83 billion per year.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged the G8 nations to stick with a three-year old pledge to raise African aid levels to USD 25 billion a year, after a report the leaders may be about to backtrack. “I would like to urge and emphasize that leaders of G8 should implement their commitment which was made at the Gleneagles summit meeting,” Ban said, referring to the G8’s 2005 summit. “When it comes to climate change … and the global food crisis, these campaigns should be led by the industrialized countries — they have the capacity, they have the resources, and I hope the leadership demonstrates their political will,” he said. Ban’s comments came ahead of the G8 summit in northern Japan on July 7-9.

Somali gunmen freed two UN aid workers from Sweden and Denmark – just hours after seizing them on June 28 in southern Somalia, UN and Somali officials said. The aid workers were released without ransom and were safe, a UN security official told Reuters. The two – who were working for a UN program to clear landmines – were kidnapped in Somalia’s Bakol region. Suspicion for kidnappings generally falls on clan militia and Islamist insurgents who are fighting the Somali government and their Ethiopian military allies.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has criticized the outcome of last Friday’s run-off presidential election in Zimbabwe – which went ahead despite international appeals for a postponement given the violence and intimidation that preceded it – as illegitimate. “The outcome did not reflect the true and genuine will of the Zimbabwean people or produce a legitimate result,” Ban’s spokesperson said in a statement issued June 30 in Tokyo, where the Secretary-General was on an official visit.

The UN and African Union (AU) have appointed the Burkina Faso Foreign Minister, Djibril Bassole, as their new Darfur peace envoy. The UN said Bassole will conduct efforts to mediate between the Sudanese government and Darfur rebels from the region’s city of Fasher. He replaces current UN and AU envoys Jan Eliasson and Salim Ahmed Salim. Recent peace efforts have faltered – armed men held 38 peacekeepers at gunpoint for five hours on June 30.

Last month’s earthquake in Sichuan, China, has caused some USD 6 billion in damage to the province’s agricultural sector, severely affecting over 30 million people in rural communities, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said June 30. The 7.9-magnitude earthquake of May 12 devastated the mountainous Sichuan province, killing an estimated 69,000 people and causing extensive property damage. More than 30 million rural inhabitants lost most of their assets, and thousands of hectares of farmland were destroyed, while millions of farm animals also died.

TRADE & HUNGER: SALVING HUNGER VIA TRADE POLICY

August 1, 2008

Erle Frayne Argonza

Let me continue on the issue of hunger, which many politicians are raising howls this early in time for the 2010 polls. The tendency right now, with politicians’ short-sightedness and poverty of wisdom, is that hunger will be perpetuated and sustained even long after the same politicians are all dead.

In the study on fair trade & food security I did for the national center for fair trade and food security (KAISAMPALAD), I already raised the howl about hunger and recommended policy and institutional intervention.

Since other experts, notably nutritionists, already highlighted many factors to hunger and under-nutrition, such as lifestyle problems, economics, and lack of appropriate public policy, I preferred to highlight in that study the factor of trade on food insecurity and the hunger malaise. Let me cite some cases here to show how trade and hunger are directly related:

·        Immediately after the termination of the sugar quota of the USA for Philippine-sourced sugar in the early 80s, the domestic sugar industry collapsed. 500,000 hungry sugar workers and their dependents had to line up for food, a tragedy and calamity that shamed the country before the international community. Till these days, the trauma caused by that ‘line up for porridge’ solution remains among those children of those days who are now adults, one of whom became my student at the University of the Philippines Manila campus (a girl).

 

·        Two years ago, a cargo ship carrying PETRON oil to the Visayas got struck with leaks and a tragic spillage covering wide swaths of sea waters. The island province of Guimaras suffered catastrophically from that incident, its economy was as bad as a war-torn economy for one year. Its marginal fishers couldn’t fish for at least one year as the sea spillage had to cleaned up. The hunger and under-nutrition caused by that tragedy is indubitably related to a trade activity: oil being transported to a predefined destination.

 

·        At the instance of trade liberalization on fruits upon the implementation of a series of GATT-related and IMF-World Bank sanctioned measures that began during the Cory Aquino regime, the massive entry of apples and fruit imports immediately crashed tens of thousands of producers of local mangoes, guavas and oranges, as domestic consumers (with their colonial flair for anything imported) chose to buy fruit imports in place of local ones. Economic dislocation and hunger instantly resulted from the trade liberalization policy.

The list could go on and on, as we go from one economic and/or population to another. What is clear here is that trade measures and activities do directly lead to food insecurity and the attendant problems of malnutrition and hunger. In the case of the Guimaras oil spillage calamity, humanitarian hands such as the Visayan provinces and Manila’s mayors’ offices, added to private and NGO groups, quickly moved to help the affected residents. Of course the PETRON itself took responsibility for the spillage, clean up, and offered humanitarian help as well. But did trade stakeholders ever paid for the hunger malaise suffered by the sugar workers and families, fruit small planters, and other families in the aftermath of shifting trade policy?

A strategic solution to trade-related hunger would be to constitute a Hunger Fund, whose funds shall come from at least 0.1% of all tariffs (on imports). A 0.1% tariff alone today translates to P800 million approximately, or close to $20 Million. This can serve as an insurance of sorts for trade-induced hunger. The funds will then be administered by an appropriate body, comprising of representatives from diverse sectors and headed by a nutritional scientist of international repute (e.g Dr. Florencio) rather than by a politician or ignoramus species.

Furthermore, insurance groups here can begin to innovate on food production-related insurance to cover force majeure damages. Cyclone insurance and earthquake insurance would be strong options for agricultural producers, even as other options can be designed most urgently.

I would admit that trade-related hunger and its solutions are practicable for the productive sectors of our population. There are 2.3 million street people today who comprise the relatively ‘unproductive sectors’, who all suffer from hunger. This need to be tackled as a distinct sector and problem, and discussed separately.

[Writ 28 July 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila] 

MANILA’S HUNGER PANGS

July 30, 2008

Erle Frayne Argonza

In a previous article about obesity, I already touched on the hunger issue. It is particularly interesting to study nutrition issues in Manila today, nutrition patterns render the Philippines among the ‘transitional populations’ that characterize emerging markets.

Needless to say, in a transitional population as defined in demographic theory, both problems of hunger and overweight co-exist, with obesity rising at faster paces than hunger. Depending on current circumstance, hunger could fluctuate from low to high. The difference between the two problems is that while hunger fluctuates or varies in occurrence, obesity steadily rises.

When I did an intensive study on fair trade & food security in 2005 for a national center entrusted with addressing fair trade & food matters, I did stumble upon the reports of the Social Weather Stations or SWS about hunger. I also got updated about under-nutrition problems reported by experts of the Food and Nutrition Research Institute or FNRI, which indicated very serious nutrition gaps among children and women, and those for fisherfolks too.

What surprises me till now is that food producers themselves, fisherfolks most especially, suffer from under-nutrition problems. Food producers are abundant with food resources, and so expectedly they should show the least signs of under-nutrition. But this isn’t the case, and in a very informative manner, our nutrition experts led by Dr. Cecilio Florencio have used satisfactory factor analysis to unlock the causes and correlates of the problem.

From the late 1990s till 2004, the hunger incidence fluctuated from 8% to 12%, going up and down as data indicated. However, from 2005 through mid-2008, the pattern shifted to the 12% to 16% range, which surely makes the problem alarming.

As early as 2005, I already raised the alarm bell for hunger, recommended policy measures and the launching of a Hunger Fund as executor of the hunger mission. Unfortunately, state officials were not in the mood to listen to such problems then, and it seems that the FNRI’s own alarm bells to the Office of the President and to the Legislative fell on deft ears. Only when economist Dr. Mahar Mangahas and the SWS experts began raising the alarm bells over media did government respond.

To my own dismay, government response has been re-active. Nary can one find a new, fresh solution to the problem. It’s the same old fogey ‘give-the-poor-porridge’ solution, the same solution that one offers to folks during wars and calamities when people have to line up for scarce food preparations. Porridge & food stumps remain, till these days, as the intervention tool of state.

How to solve hunger in the long run, which our very own nutrition experts are adept at but which continue to fall on deft ears among top state officials and our own people who refuse to change lifestyles, isn’t anywhere in the Presidents’ nor Congress’ list of strategic solutions to the problem.

Let our state officials be reminded of the last years of the monarchy in Old France. When asked for a solution to hunger, Marie Antonette replied “offer the poor cake.” Whether the cake or porridge solution leads to food security is no longer an issue in fact. One need not be reminded that the French monarchy then, too immersed in its own vanity as to be so out of touch with reality, was decapitated.

[Writ 28 July 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila]   

MANILA’S EMERGING OBESITY: IGNORE OR ADDRESS IT?

July 30, 2008

Erle Frayne Argonza

Nutrition-related issues and problems in the Philippines constitute a long list. Among all the related issues and problems, hunger stands out as the most highlighted today. While there is no question about highlighting hunger and addressing it with determination, over-focusing on this single issue tends to mask the other issues involved.

Among the emerging issues and problems in nutrition, I would handily pinpoint obesity as the most focal. Needless to say, it challenges development stakeholders to highlight the issue as well, and address it on the same level as hunger is being addressed today. Addressing it would mean resorting to public policy tools, strategies and programs at a national level, and creating necessary institutional frames to accelerate the problem’s solution.

While doing the study on fair trade & food security for the KAISAMPALAD in 2005 (this NGO is a national center for fair trade & food security), I stumbled upon both problems of hunger and obesity. At that time, the latest data from the Social Weather Stations regarding hunger indicated a 12% incidence, a figure that I found alarming as anything past the 8.5% index is considered significant. So I included the hunger issue among those food insecurity ailments that must be salved pronto, recommended policy measures, and even recommended the formation of a Hunger Fund as the multi-stakeholder executor of the anti-hunger mission.

The same study made me stumble upon the findings of nutritionists of the state’s Food and Nutrition Research Institute, which indicated a 25% obesity at the turn of the millennium. That average had its expressed distribution among age groups, with varying indices per age bracket. What was alarming at that time was the 25% Phliippine obesity rate was already 5% above the global average of 20% (the USA’s was 66%).

While I was aghast at the obesity incidence, admittedly I wasn’t prepared to tackle it then, and so I remained silent about the matter in the final research report, save for citing indices of over-weight across age brackets. Today the obesity incidence had risen well above the previous 25%, and certain popular media estimates indicate well pass the 30% mark already (we still need some more update nutrition research on the subject).

Obesity is markedly higher than hunger in the Philippines, surpassing the latter by over double the incidence. The problem with hunger studies is that the methodology is often subjective, since they employ surveys (e.g. asking the informant if s/he has been eating sufficiently or not. In contrast, obesity measures are objective and very exact, as calibration entails the use of weighing scales administered by licensed nutritionists.

I admit that I still am relatively unprepared to tackle the issue as of this day, that is as a development issue. I can only think now of the typical lifestyle intervention to address it, such as combining physical regimen with diet program and a total lifestyle change. Being athletic and a health buff (I was formerly Silver Medalist in national powerlifting –middleweight division), I often offer myself as a prototype of an optimally balanced physical-nutritional wellness person, even as I can easily lecture on lifestyle change and personal intervention to address obesity.

I would end this piece by tossing the query to my fellow Filipinos in the country and to friends overseas: will Manila continue to ignore obesity altogether?

[Writ 28 July 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila]