Gov’t confident it could reduce poverty incidence to as low as 10 percent by 2022

By Genalyn Kabiling 

The government will strive to reduce poverty incidence to 10 to 12 percent from the original target of 14 percent by 2022, National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Director General Ernesto Pernia said Wednesday.

MB FILE - Socioeconomic Planning Secretary and NEDA Director- General Dr. Ernesto M. Pernia gestures during a press briefing held at the New Executive Building in Malacañang on August 23, 2016. (Richard V. Viñas) / MANILA BULLETIN National Economic and Development Authority Director General Ernesto Pernia (MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

More families could be lifted out of poverty as the 2022 goal of 14 percent could be attained as early as next year amid the sustained government efforts, according to Pernia.

"It's really going to be exceedingly satisfying for everybody if we are able to bring down poverty incidence even to 11 percent. So I think we will probably change our target for the midterm update of PDP (Philippine Development Plan) from 14 percent by 2022, we will make it to 10 to 12 percent to be sure,” he said during a Palace press briefing.

"In other words, 10 percent to 12 percent possible poverty reduction by 2022, possible and also quite reasonable," he added.

The country’s poverty incidence dropped to 16.6 percent in 2018 from 23.3 percent in 2015 owing to improved labor market conditions that raised salaries of workers.

Pernia noted that the nation has almost reached its target to lift six million Filipinos out of poverty by 2022 as 5.9 million have already been lifted out of poverty as of 2018.

"The biggest reduction was experienced by Region 7. The only region that did not, that had an increase in poverty incidence is the ARMM (Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao) or BARMM (Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao) now and that is because the region has really been problematic in terms of governance but we expect the governance of BARMM to improve," he said.

Given the faster rate of poverty decline, Pernia said it would be a "walk in the park" to reach the 14 percent poverty incidence reduction by next year.

The government is committed to sustain poverty reduction efforts including expanding economic opportunities, expanding access to quality basic education and social assistance program.

"Everybody is heartened by the news of sharp reduction in poverty incidence by 6.7 percentage points which translates to 2.3 percentage point every year reduction," he said.

"It's a walk in park that we will reach 14 percent by 2020. By next year, we will exceed that. We will have poverty incidence even lower than 14 percent by next year if we go by the rate of decline of poverty incidence," he said.

Among the factors that contorted to lower poverty incidence, Pernia said, were the creation of more jobs, and the conditional cash transfer program to poor families.

He cited that the country's unemployment rate has decreased to 4.5 percent in 2019 from 5.1 percent in 2018. Underemployment rate is down to 13 percent in 2019 from 13.1 percent last year.

Around 1.8 million jobs have been created from 2018 to 2019, according to Pernia. “That is one major factor that brought down poverty incidence – that people are having more jobs, so they have incomes,” he said.

The administration has also pursued policy reforms to alleviate the lives of poor families by institutionalizing the conditional cash transfer program. Fuel subsidies have also been distributed to jeepney drivers to ease the blow of fuel price hikes.

The government likewise intensified family planning program in the country.

"This program that has been neglected by the previous administrations, but now it is going full steam,” he said.

"We are providing access to family planning services to women or couples who desire to have fewer children than what they are having. Enough children that they can provide for and that they want,” he added.