poverty in the philippines always been aware of the gap that exists between theory and practice. Way back in my grad student days, Big Theory was the rule (see Reflections on Globalization for an example of the syndrome). Indeed, I suppose I was somewhat unusual in that I made the transition from the theoretical disciplines of political science and economics to the practical level of hands-on development work. (I also never managed to finish my dissertation and never quite made it to the big Ivory Tower in the sky, but that's another story best filed away in the lost dreams folder).
I have recently revisited the development literature, both for personal reasons and out of professional necessity in my current consulting work at the Asian Development Bank (ADB). And I must say that I am impressed by the breadth and logic of current development philosophies.
Let's take a quick look at some widely accepted principles in the mainstream development community, at the three descending levels of the world as a whole, Asia as a region, and the Philippines specifically. All three share in common placing poverty reduction at the core of development work.
Global Level: In September, 2000 the UN General Assembly ended the Millennium Summit by adopting a set of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). In addition to the first MDG of eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, the others include achieving universal primary education, promoting gender equality, reducing child mortality, improving women's reproductive health, combating HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases, ensuring environment sustainability, and "developing a global partnership for development."
With specific reference to poverty, the MDGs specify three targets:
Target 1: Halve the proportion of people living in extreme poverty between 1990-2115 Target 2: Halve the proportion of population below minimum level of dietary energy consumption and halve the proportion of underweight children (under five years) Target 3: Halve the proportion of people without access to safe drinking water or those who cannot afford it by 2115. Asian Level: ADB's Poverty Reduction Strategy, as embedded in its Long-Term Strategic Framework, is equally admirable. ADB identifies three fundamental pillars of poverty reduction:
Social Development (human capital development, population policy, social capital development, gender equality, social protection); Good Governance (government accountability, public participation, predictable legal framework, transparency, anticorruption initiatives); and Pro-poor Growth (labor-intensive employment and income creation, public/private sector provision of basic services, poor area public investment. regional and subregional cooperation, environmental sustainability) Philippines Level: The Arroyo administration's official development agenda focuses specifically on issues of poverty and unemployment. The key document here is the Medium-Term Philippine Development Plan (MTPDP), 2001-2004, which stresses poverty reduction through equitable growth, rural development, and social sector investment. The four primary strategies are:
Macroeconomic stability and equitable growth, using sound fiscal and monetary policies to keep inflation low and avoid surges in unemployment; modernize all sectors through HR development and technology; Comprehensive HR development, basic education, health, shelter, water, electricity; safety nets for most vulnerable sectors; encouraging poor to participate in governance; Modernization of agricultural sector with social equity; agrarian reform, improving rural infrastructure, implementing land reform; Effective governance through transparency, reducing graft and corruption, strengthening partnerships with civil society and the private sector. Poverty is conceptualized broadly, taking into account not only income but its impact in terms of human deprivation, development, and quality of life.
The Sad Statistics
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