NEDA chief Pernia: Attaining poverty reduction target already a ‘walk in the park’

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NEDA chief Pernia: Attaining poverty reduction target already a ‘walk in the park’

MANILA, Philippines — Meeting the administration’s goal to lift six million Filipinos out of poverty by 2022 would just be a “walk in the park,” with the government poised to surpass its poverty reduction goal due to its reforms, the country’s top economist said.

Citing official data, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia said about 5.9 million Filipinos have been lifted out of poverty last year, only about 100,000 shy of its target.

“Actually, we are only about 1.6 percentage point to the 14-percent poverty…rate by 2022, midyear. It’s like a walk in the park to reach the 14% by 2022,” Pernia said in a press briefing yesterday in Malacañang.
 
“By next year, we will hit that. We will exceed…We will have a poverty incidence even lower than 14% by next year if we go by the rate of decline in poverty incidence,” he added.

The Philippine Statistics Authority has reported that poverty incidence in the Philippines dropped to 16.6% 2018 from 23.5% in 2015, with about 5.9 million Filipinos no longer considered poor last year.

However, about 17.6 million Filipinos remained poor as of last year and about 800,000 families are struggling to buy the right amount of food.

The poor are those who live below the monthly poverty threshold of P10,727 for a family of five.

Pernia said he expects poverty incidence to go down to 11% by 2022.

“If you let poverty incidence which is 16.6% now, drop by 2.23 percentage point a year, then we will hit, I think, something like 11 or even less than that,” the socioeconomic planning secretary said.

Pernia attributed the lower poverty incidence to the lower unemployment rate, which dropped to 4.5% in 2019 from 5.1% last year.

“More jobs (have been) created. I think in between 2018 and 2019 the next employment increase, the net job addition was 1.8 million…So that is one major factor that brought down poverty incidence – that people are having more jobs, so they have incomes,” he said.

Pernia also cited policy reforms such as the conditional cash transfer program, which gives allowances to families who send their children to school and who avail of government health services and cash transfers intended to mitigate the effects of fuel price hikes.

“In addition, I would also cite that we have intensified our family planning program. This program that has been neglected by the previous administrations, but now it is going full steam. We are providing access to family planning services to women or couples who desire to have fewer children than what they are having,” Pernia added.

‘No frills’ meal

Philippine Statistics Authority Assistant Secretary Rosalinda Bautista said about P7,528 of the P10,727 budget requirement for a family of five is set aside to buy food.

The amount can afford scrambled egg, coffee with milk, boiled rice or corn for breakfast, boiled monggo with malunggay, dried dilis, banana and boiled rice or corn for lunch, and fish or boiled pork, a vegetable dish and boiled rice or corn for dinner.

“That is known as basic needs so no frills. No fancy items there…I’m sure many families are subsisting with that kind of budget,” Pernia said.

Bautista said the menu would meet 100% of the energy requirements and 80% of protein, calcium, and iron requirements.