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

Video Miami Cubans Divided on New US Policy

While older, more conservative Cuban Americans have promoted anti-Castro political movement for years, younger generations say economically, it is time for change More

2014 Sees Dramatic Uptick in Boko Haram Abductions

Militants suspected in latest mass kidnapping of over 100 people in Gumsuri, Nigeria on Sunday More

Video Cuba Deal Is Major Victory for Pope

Role of Francis hailed throughout US, Latin America - though some Cuban-American Catholics have mixed feelings More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacksi
X
December 19, 2014 12:45 AM
The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.8143
JPY
USD
119.23
GBP
USD
0.6390
CAD
USD
1.1596
INR
USD
63.304

Rates may not be current.