Inclusive growth for the poor

‘It’s not about CSR or donations. It’s about integrating practices to help communities’ – Sen. Bam Aquino


Nurses ending up as call center agents, in marketing and sales jobs—this mirrors the unemployment and underemployment we have in the country, which one of the barriers for inclusive growth.

This is one of the urgent problems that need to be addressed, as eloquently pointed out by Sen. Paulo Benigno “Bam” A. Aquino IV during the recent 44th Philippine College of Physicians (PCP) Annual Convention which tackled the theme “Inclusive Growth: Walang Iwanan!” (Leaving No One Behind).

“In the medical profession, the nurses are severely under employed. In the past few years, we had half a million under employed nurses,” said Sen. Aquino. “They end up in jobs they were not trained for and they did not imagine for themselves.”

He cited statistics showing that unemployment rate is still high at 7.1 percent, underemployment rate at 20 percent; and poverty incidence based on the official poverty line is at 25.2 percent in 2013. This poverty rate does not seem to have changed since 2006,implying the need to come up with measures to promote inclusive growth in the country, so not only the rich benefit from the improved economic outlook the country is experiencing at the moment.

Sen. Aquino ventures an opinion that maybe we’re not doing enough or there’s something lacking in our policies.

“Dapat ‘yung pag-angat ng ekonomiya natin, kasabay ng pagbaba ng dami ng mahirap sa ating bansa (The growth in the economy should decrease the number of poor in the country).”

Although experts say that 7 percent is not that bad with the size and economy like the Philippines, Sen. Aquino said, “Under employment at 20 percent is quite a troubling number and 7 percent of unemployment rate still translates to a million Filipinos.”

According to the youngest senator of the current Senate, ten years ago, the Philippines was dubbed as ‘The sick man of Asia’ by Asia Times Online. A lot of people said we’re the country that almost took off, but never actually got off the runway, he said.

Now, the country is considered the ‘Breakout Nation’ and ‘Asia’s rising star’ and we’re at a level that other countries can invest and get good returns. Unfortunately, with the country’s growth, the poverty incidence remains the same, which is a big paradox or a contradiction of sorts, he said.

Steady poverty numbers

In 2013, the Philippines’ full year Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grew by 7.2 percent despite a tough year. But because of that, the country became number two, second best economy in the whole Asia (where China was number one).

Sen. Aquino shared that in one of the social entrepreneurship conference he attended in Indonesia, he was surprised upon learning that the reason why the Indonesian speaker kept on mentioning the Philippines in his talk was because he wanted to know what they can do to become like the Philippines.

“Other countries talk about our country, wanting to see the growth that we have. Definitely, when it comes to growth, we’re doing well. In fact, they projected we’ll be doing well in the next five to 10 years. And possibly, that could be our chance to get to a level where our country is a developed country that the middle class is larger than the poor countries,” said Sen. Aquino.

As to why the rate of poverty did not improve despite the impressive growth in the economy, he said it has been the question that is plaguing the government right now.

He cited President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III’s State of the Nation Address where he cited “inclusive growth” as the main thrust and objective of this government.

“The President says, ‘For 2013, it’s not acceptable anymore to have a trickle-down economy. We must be able to channel resources to the poor. Let’s fund them, give them a chance, and help them to see the change in our poverty rates,” said Sen. Aquino.

Inclusive growth

For Sen. Aquino, inclusive growth is not about CSR, or donations, it’s about integrating practices to help communities, how a community can reach a level wherein their children could go to college.

“This is the challenge to us, to see those successful community projects in the whole country,” said Sen. Aquino.

To address those issues, he crafted several bills focusing on inclusive growth. There’s Malawakang Kaunlaran (Inclusive Growth), Social Value Bill, Pagkaing Pinoy Para sa Batang Pinoy Bill, Social Enterprise Bill, Youth Entrepreneurship Bill, Go Negosyo Bill, Microdev Bill, Fair Competition Bill.

One of the bills passed, the Go Negosyo Bill of 2013 by Sen. Aquino “seeks to address the Philippines’s rising unemployment rate by speeding up the current business registration process and boosting support for micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs).”

“It is very symbolic. Once it’s [the bill] passed, it can support the entrepreneurs. Hopefully, Go Negosyo Centers in every province, city, and municipality.”

Go Negosyo Centers aims to give ease in doing business, access to financing options, mentorship, mapping and market linkages, and identification of inclusive business opportunities.

“Ultimately our goal is that as the Philippines grows, more Filipinos are able to grow as well. It is possible for us to get out of poverty. It is possible, but the question is, can we get our acts together?” Sen. Aquino concluded.

VitalSigns Issue 63 Vol. 3, May 1-31, 2014