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Covid erases gains vs poverty

Subsistence incidence or the number of Filipinos whose income is insufficient to meet even the basic food needs grew to 9.9 percent equivalent to 10.94 million more struggling Filipinos in the first half.



The effects of the ongoing pandemic erased the gains achieved under the Duterte administration in reducing poverty, as the number of poor families as of last June increased compared to what was recorded during the same period three years ago, latest data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) showed.

National Statistician Claire Dennis Mapa said the poverty incidence among the population, whose per capita income is not sufficient to meet basic food and non-food needs — was estimated at 23.7 percent in the first semester from just 21.1 percent in the first semester of 2018.

According to him, the latest figure translates to 26.14 million Filipinos who live below the poverty threshold–which was estimated at P12,082 on the average for a family of five per month.

According to PSA the rise in poverty incidence was the first since the agency started tabulating the figures in 2012.

Mapa said the reversal in the fortune of households could be attributed to the increase in the cost of prices or inflation during the three-year gap, surpassing the incline in the income of Filipino families, which was drastically affected by the pandemic.

Subsistence incidence or the number of Filipinos whose income is insufficient to meet even the basic food needs grew to 9.9 percent or about 10.94 million struggling Filipinos in the first half from just 8.5 percent in 2018.

“On the average, the monthly food threshold for a family of five for the same period was estimated at P8,393,” the PSA said.

“Among families, the first semester 2021’s poverty incidence was estimated at 18 percent, which is equivalent to around 4.74 million poor families,” it added.

On the other hand, subsistence incidence among families was recorded at 7.1 percent or about 1.87 million food poor families in the first semester of the year, the agency said.

Figures to improve ahead
Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick Chua said poverty incidence for the whole year should be better given the disparity in data, with the second half poverty incidence expected to be at a better position.

Citing the observed trend in poverty data, income in the second half of the year is usually bigger than the first half, hence, the expectation of better poverty numbers in the second semester.

“There is a big difference typically (in) the first half and the second half. So we will have to wait for the full year to determine, but so far we are sticking to this (15.5 to 17.5 percent) target,” he said.

According to him, the set target of reducing poverty by 6 million Filipinos by 2022 was already achieved in 2018 but with the health crisis, the poor increased by 3.9 million.

“So we have to work hard to bring them out of poverty before the term ends and we are hoping that our second half of the year — where we see better growth and employment prospects will help us achieve that or at least minimize the impact on the poor,” Chua added.

The Cabinet official then cited some recommendations to bring more Filipinos out of poverty, which include a more inclusive economy through the acceleration of the national ID system among others.