News / Economy

Philippine Economy Grows but Wealth Slow to Trickle Down

A worker counts U.S. dollar bills and Philippine pesos inside a money changer in Manila, June 19, 2013.A worker counts U.S. dollar bills and Philippine pesos inside a money changer in Manila, June 19, 2013.
x
A worker counts U.S. dollar bills and Philippine pesos inside a money changer in Manila, June 19, 2013.
A worker counts U.S. dollar bills and Philippine pesos inside a money changer in Manila, June 19, 2013.
The Philippines' economic wealth is evident with growth surpassing that of China, new investment grade credit ratings and a surging stock market. But how many people are sharing in the country's new wealth?
 
Aris Bonifacio’s financial situation appears to be going from good to even better. The 32-year-old computer programmer has worked with the same insurance company for nine years. Business has been growing and so has his salary.
 
He said, after years of saving, he was finally able to buy a brand new car in April. Now he is ready to buy a condo from a high-end developer.  
 
Philippine Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan said while the economy has been solid for several years, local businesses only started to increase spending about a year ago.
 
“People initially were taking a wait and see attitude, you know, one year or two years of wait and see," he said. "And you can’t really blame that.”
 
Balisacan said the country’s economy in the last four decades has had a “boom and bust” pattern mainly because of political instability, which has created a wary investment climate.
 
In recent years, the administration under President Benigno Aquino has tried to improve the country’s financial reputation by cleaning up corruption and prosecuting tax cheats and officials accused of graft.
 
Balisacan said the government also boosted infrastructure spending, which has helped push economic growth beyond seven percent for the past three quarters.  
 
“What exactly have been the major constraints to investments, whether it’s domestic or foreign? Number one that comes out is infrastructure, the quality of infrastructure,” he said.
 
Balisacan said traffic bottlenecks in the capital region and bad rural roads have eaten significantly into the cost of doing business, while rundown airports need upgrading to support tourism. He said investing in fixes will help attract businesses and bring other jobs to an economy heavily dependent on consumer spending and the service sector.
 
The country’s unemployment rate was 7.5 percent in the first quarter. Twenty percent of its workforce remains “underemployed,” working for far less than 40 hours a week. About one-third of the 97 million people in the Philippines lives in poverty and the Aquino administration says it is now focused on including the marginalized in its growth picture.  
 
At a park across the street from a luxury hotel in Manila’s business district, Junjer Catbagan said he has gone from job to job earning the same minimum wage of about $10 a day. The 23-year-old high school graduate works at the fish counter of a supermarket.
 
Catbagan laughed and said if there was anything new in his financial situation he would be at a better paying job. But reality is, his budget for raising a young family still falls short.
 
Other minimum-wage earners complain that the growing economy has meant higher costs of goods. And those in the so-called “informal sector” such as street vendors and garbage pickers say there is no difference at all in their earnings.
 
Even so, Jose Morales, who heads the Urban Poor Alliance, said the Aquino administration’s focus on cleaning up corruption is making a big impact on poor people’s lives.
 
Morales said ordinary people are empowered under this administration, and he feels it listens to his group’s proposed solutions.
 
The government has ambitious plans to cut the proportion of people living in poverty from 28 percent to 16 percent by 2016," he said. "To help with that effort, a new “sin tax” has gone into effect to raise additional revenue for healthcare and education for the poor.

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Srebrenica Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs countermeasure at UN More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prisoni
X
Heather Murdock
July 01, 2015 8:59 PM
As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.9009
JPY
USD
123.09
GBP
USD
0.6387
CAD
USD
1.2524
INR
USD
63.605

Rates may not be current.