FACT CHECK: NEDA didn't say family of 5 can live decently on P10,000 a month

There was uproar on social media and strong criticism from labor groups and lawmakers over media reports that the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) supposedly said a Filipino family with 5 members needs only P10,000 a month to lead a decent life.

The reports presented a breakdown of expenses under a P10,000 budget, as shown by NEDA officials during the press briefing on the May 2018 inflation rate on Tuesday, June 5. 

A TV report scrutinized NEDA’s food budget of P3,854 monthly or P127 daily. A reporter went to the market to check what P127 could buy. 

But did NEDA say P10,000 a month was enough? 

In fact, the economic managers only said this is the budget that a typical minimum-income family works around with, based on their spending habits recorded by government 3 years ago. 

What NEDA said: In a statement on Wednesday, June 6, NEDA said that it only showed "how a hypothetical monthly budget of P10,000 will be affected by a 4.6% inflation rate."

However, NEDA Undersecretary Rosemarie Edillon failed to clarify this point with reporters during the Tuesday press briefing.

At the start of the briefing, Edillon said the table was based on the budget of an "average Filipino family." 

“Let’s say this is actually your average minimum wage worker with a monthly budget of P10,000, and this would be the breakdown of that budget based on the 2015 Family Income and Expenditure Survey,” Edillon said.

Edillon did not state in any part of the briefing that P10,000 was enough for a Filipino family to live a decent life.

Admittedly, however, Edillon missed the crucial points raised by reporters. 

Reporter: I’m just curious how you came up with that table, because the assumption is, kasya naman 'yung sampung libo. But if you ask anyone, any minimum wage worker – at iyan eh baon sa utang, hindi makapagbayad ng basic goods – so paano 'nyo po napagkasya ang sampung libong monthly budget?(I’m just curious how you came up with that table, because the assumption is, P10,000 is enough. But if you ask anyone, any minimum wage worker – they are deep in debts, they cannot pay for basic goods – so how were you able to fit everything in a monthly budget of P10,000?)

Edillon: This is based on an average, 'no? Siguro merong baon sa utang, merong hindi. So this is based on an average Filipino family na ang basehan namin is ang family expenditures and income survey. So it’s based on a nationally-based representative survey.(This is based on an average. Maybe some have debts, some have none. This is based on [what] an average Filipino family [spends on] and we based that on the family expenditures and income survey. So it's based on a nationally-based, representative survey.)

A reporter asked whether or not NEDA “underestimated" a typical family's expenses. Edillon did not address this point. She just explained again that they based the figures from the PSA survey.

How NEDA should have presented the information: Meanwhile, Economist and Rappler columnist JC Punongbayan said NEDA should have pointed out that the hypothetical budget was just "a few hundred pesos more than the 2015 poverty line."

"In fact, by 2018, the poverty line could already have exceeded it. Hence, by any estimation, P10,000 really [is not] enough to live a comfortable or 'decent' life," Punongbayan said in a Facebook post Wednesday.

Official figures

According to a Philippine Statistics Authority report in 2015, a family of 5 actually needed "at least P6,365 on the average every month to meet the family’s basic food needs and at least P9,140 on the average every month to meet both basic food and non-food needs."

The PSA report also noted that a family needs "an additional monthly income of P2,649...in order to move out of poverty in the first semester of 2015."

Edillon said the family with a monthly budget of P10,000 belonged to the “5th decile” and was not considered poor because the "poverty line is low."

The 2015 Family Income and Expenditure Survey is available on the Philippine Statistics Authority website. However, the range of household income for every decile is not specified in the report.

"The richest decile represents families belonging to the highest ten percent in terms of per capita income, while the poorest decile represents families in the lowest ten percent," The PSA says. – Rappler.com

Ralf Rivas

A sociologist by heart, a journalist by profession. Ralf is Rappler's business reporter, covering macroeconomy, government finance, companies, and agriculture.