In an August SWS poll (before “Pablo” and Manny’s KO), 28% of Filipinos said their circumstances had worsened in the last 12 months versus 21% who indicated it had improved; for a negative 8 points. Why are Filipinos dissatisfied with their quality of life even as the economy is growing at 7.1%, the stock market and real estate are at record highs and the Philippines is the darling of the international investment community? Why is there a disconnect between how Filipinos feel and what the numbers tell us?
The principal reason is the growing income disparity in the country. The poor are getting poorer and the rich richer. The money is being made by owners of capital and land and the educated with the ordinary man being left behind. Thus our unemployment (7%) and under-employment (19.3%) is the highest in the ASEAN even as we are growing faster than our neighbors.
Our growth is principally from construction and services (call centers) with few new jobs in labor-intensive manufacturing and agriculture. Development is in the urban areas and not in the rural sector which makes up 80% of the poor. Corporate profits have outpaced gains in wages i.e. the share of workers in the economic pie is diminishing. Much of these profits come from improved business conditions but some of it is perceived by the public to be the result of monopolies and cartels, witness the reported overcharging by Meralco and mobile telcos for basic services.
Then there is the growing low-level corruption. Businessmen say bribes and smuggling are rampant, flying below the radar of national media and Central Government.
In the meantime, population growth is diluting the already meager share of the poor in economic prosperity.
Filipinos are feeling marginalized even as the statistics say otherwise. How can the Government get national progress to feel more inclusive?