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 On the Scene: In Gaza, Darkness Brings Dread and Death

Palestinians fear nighttime raids, many feel abandoned by outside world, VOA's Scott Bobb reports More

African Small Farmers Could Be Key to Ending Food Insecurity

Experts say providing access to microloans, crop insurance, better storage facilities, irrigation, road systems and market information could enable greater production More

University of Michigan Wins Solar Car Race

Squad guided its student-designed solar-powered vehicle to fifth consecutive time victory in eight-day bi-annual American Solar Challenge More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.7305
JPY
USD
101.53
GBP
USD
0.5830
CAD
USD
1.0656
INR
USD
60.075

Rates may not be current.