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

How to Safeguard Your Mobile Privacy

As the digital world becomes more mobile, so too do concerns about eroding privacy and increased hacking More

'Desert Dancer' Chronicles Iranian Underground Dance Troupe

Film by Richard Raymond is based on true story of Afshin Ghaffarian and his friends More

Researcher: Obesity Poses Complex Problem

Professor at Symposium on Obesity, Diabetes and Metabolic Syndrome says problem involves more than calorie intake, warns of worldwide health impact More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thoughti
X
George Putic
May 26, 2015 9:26 PM
Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video US-led Coalition Gives Some Weapons to Iraqi Troops

In a video released Tuesday from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, Iraqi forces and U.S.-led coalition troops survey a cache of weapons supplied to help Iraq liberate Mosul from Islamic State group. According to a statement provided with the video, the ministry and the U.S.-led coaltion troops have started ''supplying the 16th army division with medium and light weapons in preparation to liberate Mosul and nearby areas from Da'esh (Arabic acronym for Islamic State group).''
Video

Video Amnesty International: 'Overwhelming Evidence' of War Crimes in Ukraine

Human rights group Amnesty International says there is overwhelming evidence of ongoing war crimes in Ukraine, despite a tentative cease-fire with pro-Russian rebels. Researchers interviewed more than 30 prisoners from both sides of the conflict and all but one said they were tortured. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Washington Parade Honors Those Killed Serving in US Military

Every year, on the last Monday in the month of May, millions of Americans honor the memories of those killed while serving in the armed forces. Memorial Day is a tradition that dates back to the 19th Century. While many people celebrate the federal holiday with a barbecue and a day off from work, for those who’ve served in the military, it’s a special day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Arash Arabasadi reports for VOA from Washington.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.
Video

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.

VOA Blogs

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.9152
JPY
USD
122.70
GBP
USD
0.6494
CAD
USD
1.2374
INR
USD
63.925

Rates may not be current.