MANILA.- Poverty reduction can begin with one concrete step: implementing the Reproductive Health Law properly, thus helping women achieve their desired family size.
This is according to National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Director General and Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia, who spoke at the BusinessWorld Economic Forum at Shangri-La at The Fort in Taguig City on Tuesday.
Pernia noted that the Philippines’ poverty incidence back in 1990, when the Millennium Development Goals were first set, was at 33 percent. Today, 26 years later, it only improved to 25 to 26 percent.
Pernia attributed this bleak number to the previous administrations’ persistent emphasis on economic growth and job creation to the detriment of the supply side of labor and population.
Not only was there great opposition to the passage of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012, but there were roadblocks even after it was already signed into law by then President Benigno Aquino III.
A temporary restraining order prevented it from being carried out, before it was finally deemed constitutional except for certain provisions.
“We should really have made a stronger drive toward making sure that poor families, especially, who want fewer children anyway, get what they wanted by implementing the Reproductive Health Law,” Pernia said.
According to his calculations, if married women of reproductive age were able to achieve a lower desired family size of three, rather than, say, six, for the poorest 20 to 40 percent, poverty incidence would have potentially been reduced by three to four percentage points.
And, he noted, these calculations did not even include single women or teenagers.
Teenage pregnancies are on the rise in the Philippines, with Pernia citing statistics that, of 10 million girls aged 15 to 19, about 10 percent have already had pregnancies.
Early pregnancy, he pointed out, compromises one’s future “because you drop out of school, that kind of thing.”
Pernia said he and the rest of the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte are aiming to reduce poverty incidence by one to 1.5 percentage points annually, bringing it down from the current 25 to 26 percent to 17 to 18 percent at the end of six years.
“Of course, we give credit to the previous administration, they have done a lot of good in terms of driving the macro-economy. Our credit ratings have been upgraded by most of the reputable ratings agencies,” Pernia acknowledged.
While the present administration intends to continue the “good macroeconomic policies” of the previous administration, he said that it would also push for regional and rural development, as well as better distribution of economic growth across income classes and regions.
“The theme of our economic program is poverty- and inequality-reducing economic growth, which is clearer than just saying ‘inclusive growth.’ Very specific. And so, that is what we’re trying to achieve under this government,” Pernia said.
The fact that many Cabinet members are from the Visayas and Mindanao would give them the “drive” to ensure that investors go there instead of bunching up in Luzon or the National Capital Region.
“The distinctive characteristic of the current Cabinet is that we are older than the previous Cabinet; probably 10 to 15 years on average older than the previous Cabinet. But that’s not really all that bad, because the older you get, the more impatient you get with respect to change,” Pernia quipped.
“So I think we are going to get things done faster. Less thinking and analysis, well, enough analysis but not too much of that, and just action.” (Tricia Aquino, InterAksyon.com)