Gov’t Urged To Take More Active Steps To Address Job Losses, Economic Slowdown

Written by IBON Media
Monday, 12 January 2009
‘Contingency Package’ Insufficient Amid Crisis

The government has yet to take real steps to address the adverse effects of the global crisis on the local economy, said research group IBON Foundation.
In an attempt to downplay the economy’s problems and insist on imaginary “sound fundamentals”, the administration calls its efforts a mere “resiliency” or “contingency” plan. However, this eventual package is inadequate, places the burden of adjusting to the crisis on the people, and borders on mere public relations gimmickry, said IBON research head Sonny Africa.

So far, the administration has not really introduced new and additional measures, and has merely engaged in ineffectual exercises to give the impression that something is being done, he said. The labor department has allegedly prepared “alternative” livelihood programs and loans for retrenched workers and displaced overseas Filipino workers (OFWs). However, if the administration is really capable of creating domestic jobs and livelihood to begin with, then this is something that should have been done for the over 4 million jobless Filipinos even before the recent descent into crisis, said Africa.

At best, the administration has showcased pockets of success, even as these efforts do not reach the majority. For example, an additional P5 billion was allocated for the Pantawid Pamilya Pilipino program, which will double the number of beneficiaries from 320,000 households to 640,000 households. However, the 2006 FIES show that 8.7 million families or the poorest half of the country’s families have incomes of less than P8,300 per month. The program thus reaches less than 4% of just these families even assuming, given the weaknesses of the government bureaucracy such as corruption, that the money will even reach them.

The administration’s continuing denial of the economy’s deep-seated problems contributes to its inability to deal with the crisis, said Africa. As it is, the poor are being left on their own to deal with their long-standing problems. But it is possible to immediately arrest the slowdown in economic activity and mitigate the worsening of joblessness, incomes and poverty by taking more active measures to care for people’s welfare.

Some of these measures include giving sufficient attention to health, education, social welfare and emergency support, and taking substantial steps to develop the domestic economy and make it less vulnerable to external shocks in the future, he said. (end)

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