Bicol poverty remains high despite growth of regional economy

LEGAZPI CITY, 30 July2013 (PNA) – While the Bicol economy grew faster than the National Capital Region’s in 2012, the region’s poverty prevalence is disturbing — specifically in the provinces of Masbate and Camarines Sur, a regional official of the National Economic Development Authority said here.

Engineer Luis G. Banua, NEDA Bicol assistant regional director, said in an interview Tuesday that Masbate remains the poorest province in the region but the highest number of poor families is found in Camarines Sur due to its big population.

“Masbate is the poorest province in Bicol but the highest magnitude of poverty incidence is in Camarines Sur with 380,000 families or 1.8 million,” Banua said, citing statistics from the National Statistical Coordination Board Bicol regional office.

In the first quarter of 2013, Albay province ranked second with a high prevalence of poor families, surpassing the province of Camarines Sur.

“Bicol economy is growing, however, we are far from attaining the Millennium Development Goal on poverty because it takes time to reduce poverty; we’re just one rank higher than the ARMM because of underemployment. So, we need to create more quality jobs to graduate from poverty line and improve income,” Banua said.

The data, according to NEDA and NSCB, are based on 2009 statistics but in the first quarter of 2013, Masbate got a 44.2-percentage magnitude of poverty.

Surprisingly, the magnitude of poverty incidence in Albay rose by 36.2 percent surpassing the province of Camarines Sur with 33.5 percent.

Albay province is now ranked second in poverty incidence followed by Camarines Sur; Sorsogon ranked fourth with 32.1 percent; Catanduanes, fifth with 27.1 percent; while Camarines Norte has the lowest poverty prevalence, with 24.7 percent.

The Bicol region’s economy grew by 7.1 percent, faster than the NCR, unfortunately, the economic growth didn’t trickle down to the grassroots, Banua noted.

To reduce poverty in Bicol, the NEDA official said, there is a need to create more investments to produce employment.

He said that most Filipinos believe that being employed in a well-paying job is the only way to escape poverty.

However, getting a well-paying job requires good education, Banua said, adding that improving the country’s educational system requires huge investments and will take a long time to produce results.

“Jobless growth will perpetuate poverty. The creation of more high-paying jobs should be the end result of investments in agriculture, industry and services — especially in the rural areas outside Metro Manila,” he said.

To achieve that societal goal, the NEDA regional official said, substantial public investments in education, health, good governance, rural infrastructure, security and promoting productivity must be given priority.

“Reducing poverty will take a long time, given the prevailing social structure in the country. Economic mobility is shackled by lack of jobs and low productivity. Therefore, creating a competitive environment and providing support to move more people outside the poverty trap must be the primary mission of the national government,” Banua said.

Based on the latest poverty estimates released by the NSCB, three out of ten Filipinos are considered poor.

In 2003, real per capita GDP was P48,955; in 2006 it was P54,226; in 2009, P58,211; and in 2012, P65,917.

The second increase in the number of employed persons was only half the increase in total population. From 2003 to 2006, the number of employed persons increased by 2 million, but total population increased by 5 million.

From 2006 to 2009, the number of employed increased by 2 million while total population increased by 4 million while total population increased by 4.8 million.

To reduce poverty, Banua said, there must be substantial increase in reap per capita GDP and increase in good quality employment.

In 2009, Filipino families in the bottom 30 percent income group earned an average of P62,000 per year.

Given the average family size of five, the per capita income was only P12,500, which is below the poverty threshold of P16,841. (PNA)

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