NEDA: Poverty likely worsened in 2013 due to Yolanda

MANILA, Philippines – Super typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) and other calamities could have pushed more Filipinos into poverty last year, the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) said Monday, May 12.

Rosemarie Edillon, NEDA assistant director general, said in a press briefing that poverty incidence in 2013 likely worsened by 2 percentage points to 27.2% from the 25.2% recorded in 2012.

Edillon's projection came after NEDA released last month data showing poverty in the first half of 2013 dropping significantly from the year before.

Edillon pointed out that the drop in the first half was probably not enough to offset the impact of Yolanda in the second. Yolanda wiped out entire towns in central Philippines in November last year, killing around 7,000 people and displacing 4 million others.

"It can stay the same (for the full year), or we can see a slight uptick," Edillon noted.

The Philippine Statistics Authority on April 29 reported that poverty incidence among Filipinos in the first semester of last year stood at 24.9%, lower than the 27.9% recorded in the same period of the previous year.

The NEDA attributed the decline to the economy's strong expansion and the government's investments in social development programs.

Emmanuel Esguerra, NEDA deputy director general, said that the estimated increase in poverty incidence for the full year 2013 was because of the damage wrought by Yolanda.

"The estimate (of a higher poverty incidence in 2013) does not factor in the effect of reconstruction work. If we do it (the reconstruction) well, certainly, you will find a reversal of the trend. How fast it is going to be depends on how fast the work proceeds," Esguerra said.

Without Yolanda, economic managers said the country was well on track to achieving "an appreciable downward trend" in poverty.

Esguerra said that it would take more than a decade of 7% annual growth to bring the poverty incidence to single digits. "We need 12 to 15 years to significantly reduce growth, other countries also had it that long. The growth also needs to be combined with other policies."

Poverty incidence among Filipino families in the first half of 2013 was estimated at 19.1%, lower than the 22.3% recorded in January to June 2012.

Subsistence incidence, which refers to the proportion of Filipinos in extreme poverty, likewise declined to 10.7% in January to June last year from the 13.4% in the same months of 2012.

The subsistence incidence among Filipino families, on the other hand, declined to 7.7% from 10%. The NEDA said that this was the first time that subsistence incidence went down to single-digit levels.

A family of 5 needed at least P5,590 on the average every month to meet basic food needs last year, and at least P8,022 on the average monthly to meet both basic food and non-food needs.

The PSA also said that on the average, incomes of poor families were short by 27.4% of the poverty threshold. This means that a poor family needed additional income of P2,198 to get out of poverty. –