Press Release
April 3, 2008

Filipinos bracing for tougher times ahead -- Loren

Senator Loren Legarda said today that the magnitude of the poverty, unemployment and hunger problem in the country today has been affirmed by a recent survey that 66 percent Filipinos consider the economy to be "worse now" than in 2005.

Legarda pointed out that despite the country's record-high gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate of 7.5 percent in 2007, 77 percent of those surveyed said they consider themselves either "very poor or poor."

"The survey result showing the distressing conditions of many Filipinos today and the high GDP being trumpeted by the government tend to show that economic growth has not addressed poverty levels," said Legarda.

"They also expose the limitation of GDP as a gauge to determine improvements in the quality of life of people. The government must stop bandying GDP whenever queried on where Juan dela Cruz stands right now," Legarda continued.

She pointed out that despite the reported slide in the country's unemployment rate from 7.8 percent in 2007 to 7.4 percent in 2008, the Philippines still has one of the highest unemployment rates in Southeast Asia.

"And with GDP growth expected to slow down to 5.9 percent, as per World Bank forecast, then we better brace ourselves for tougher times, more so with inflation soaring to a 16-month high of 5.4 percent in February."

The chair of the Senate Economic Affairs Committee, Legarda said the skyrocketing rice prices and its very tight supply, as well as increases in the prices of oil products, are a cause for grave concern.

Legarda threw her support behind government efforts to crack down on rice hoarders, saying hoarding adds to the rice shortage and leads to the escalation of the staple cereal's selling price.

"But to fully secure our rice needs, we must go back to the basics and focus on increasing our agricultural outputs. As far as rice is concerned, we should bat for 100 percent sufficiency from local production. If there's more than enough rice produced by local farmers, hoarding will cease to be a problem," she said.

Legarda said that other than the GDP and employment rates, the Human Development Index (HDI) being used by the United Nations provides a more accurate picture of how people in a particular country are doing.

This because four indicators, including GDP, are used to compute HDI. The others are life expectancy, access to education and standard of living.

Legarda said that in the 2007/2008 HDI based on 2005 figures, the Philippines slipped from 84th to 90th spot, after being overtaken by Grenada, Jordan, Suriname, Turkey, the Dominican Republic and Belize.

"If the survey showed that Filipinos were better off in 2005 than today and the HDI on 2005 figures showed we fell to 90th position, imagine how much lower our HDI ranking would be using figures for 2007 and 2008," Legarda said.

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