The twin problem of joblessness and poverty will define President Benigno S. C. Aquino III’s presidency.
After five years in office, he has failed to put a dent on the unemployment and underemployment problem; in fact, one can make a strong case that it has worsened under his watch. During the same period, poverty incidence has been virtually unchanged.
Unemployment and underemployment is a form of market failure. This provides a clear case for government intervention. The depth and persistency of the problem suggest that reliance on the market to create enough decent jobs is grossly inadequate.
Below are some relevant official labor statistics from 2010 to April 2015. Despite the above normal economic expansion from 2012 to 2014, after the slowdown in 2011, the following observations appear warranted.
The Aquino III administration is supposedly committed to the lofty goal of strong, sustainable, inclusive growth. But does it really know the meaning of inclusiveness? What do the evidence show about the state of economic, social and environmental inclusiveness of the Philippine economy? What should government authorities do to make growth inclusive?
A recent 2015 study sponsored by the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) shows that over a period of 23 years, from 1990 to 2013, the Philippines had the worst record among its ASEAN-5 peers in terms of economic, social and environmental inclusiveness.
This should be a wake-up call for policy makers who boast that the Philippines is the best performing country among its ASEAN-5 peers. The harsh reality is that more meaningful and deeper reforms need to be done by government authorities before the Philippines can catch up with its ASEAN-5 neighbors.
The next President should prioritize agriculture. It’s one solid way of giving meat and substance to the lofty goal of strong, sustainable and inclusive growth.
All talk about strong, inclusive economic growth will remain empty talk for as long as agriculture is being left behind. The consequences of ignoring agriculture are enormous. About one-third (11 million out of 37.4 million) of the country’s work force is employed in the agriculture sector. And more than half of poor Filipinos who live in rural areas depend on it.
A more productive agricultural sector will benefit the approximately 100 million Filipinos, especially the poor, in terms of cheaper food.