Aquino doubts official poverty numbers

MANILA, Philippines - Even the highest official of the land expressed doubts on the quality of the government's poverty statistics recently released by the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB)

In a briefing on Thursday, April 25, President Aquino said given that poverty incidence is based on an estimate of the country's population that is poor, there could be some problems with the data. 

The President is the chair of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Board, the highest policymaking body of the NEDA. The oversight agency's attached agencies include the NSCB and the National Statistics Office (NSO).

"May konti akong duda. Hindi ba doon hindi nga ni-report nang tama ‘yung population, ‘yung population na pagkukunan mo ng per capita, paano naging tama ‘yung comparison in ’09 and ’12? Baka naman magtampo sa akin ‘yung National Statistics…these are off-the-cuff remarks that were on top of my mind," Aquino said.

(I have a bit of a doubt since they used the wrong population data, which is basis for computing per capita income. How then can you property compare 2009 and 2012?) 

The President explained that since the 2009 population numbers were "questionable" and thus may not be comparable to the 2012 numbers since his administration has improved the population data, particularly in areas like the ARMM.

The number of voters in the ARMM was hotly contested since the region was where the alleged election fraud was committed in 2007. Former President Arroyo was slapped with election fraud charges for massive cheating in the 2007 Presidential polls. 

The ARMM is also the region with the highest poverty incidence nationwide at 46.9% of families living below the poverty line in the first semester of 2012. Another region that saw an increase in poverty incidence was Region XII with 37.5% of families living below the poverty line. 

"The whole country is not composed of two regions. There are only two regions that had dramatic increases in poverty levels. May I point out that one of them is ARMM at ‘yung ARMM naman, kung isasama mo ‘yung 2009, how reliable (is this)? Are you comparing apples to apples? Na ‘yung makatotohanang pagrereport ngayon at ‘nung araw na medyo...?" he said. 

"I’m sorry kung medyo hindi ganoon ka-thorough ‘yung pagbasa ko nito. Sa totoo lang ‘nung ni-release ng NEDA halos sabay na ipinakita sa akin. Hindi ako nabigyan ng 24 hours man lang na pag-aralan ito. Saka baka ma-question pa ako ng professor ko dati sa economics kung mali ‘yung interpretation ko doon sa statistics," he added.

More time

The President said, however, that it will take more time before the Philippines will be able to significantly reduce poverty. For one, it takes time to gather poverty statistics. 

He said that the Aquino administration's programs have already improved the situation in other regions where there were reductions in poverty incidence. For one, he said, the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) program has allowed the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) budget to increase by 200%. 

The CCT program is being touted as the main anti-poverty program of the Aquino administration. In 2012, the number of families covered by the program increased to 3.8 million. 

"Obviously, they want dramatic changes. Pero merong reduction in the poverty levels in the rest of the regions. Now, ang hirap lang ditong mag-predict, ano, but medyo matagal—mabagal ‘yung ating pag-gather ng statistics. Parang may times na you ask for a particular quarter darating sa iyo ‘yung results two quarters after that," he said. 

Aquino also said other measures being undertaken by the government to reduce poverty include various infrastructure projects that would not only improve transportation in the country but also encourage investors to bring their business to the Philippines. 

The NEDA has admitted that the country's poor infrastructure is the biggest constraint to the country's growth and development. -