Poverty and difficulty

>> Thursday, June 1, 2017

Ike Señeres

It is actually very obvious, but it is only now that I have realized that the vernacular word “kahirapan” has a double meaning, because it means both poverty and difficulty. Perhaps that is not a coincidence because poverty actually adds difficulty to the lives of those who are below the poverty line. Of course, not everything could be bought by money but the truth is, money can buy comfort and convenience, these two bring the opposite of difficulty.
In the case of the poor people, poverty and difficulty would tend to come in tandem, but not in the case of the rich people, who would tend to easily buy comfort and convenience with their money. For example, the poor people would often have difficulty in getting a ride from a public means of transport, but the rich people could always ride in comfort in their own private vehicles. In this case, the equalizing factor would be mass transport, but that is another story.
In a manner of speaking, it could be said that the opposite of poverty is prosperity, and the way towards prosperity is to have a means of income, either from a job or a business or both. It is however not enough to have a means of income, because what is really needed is a level of income that would enable households to earn enough or more than enough to enable them to go above the poverty line.
The common measure of poverty or prosperity as the case may be is to be able to afford or not the imaginary basket of goods that would represent the basic needs of all households. The Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) is the alternative method of measuring poverty. Instead of measuring the ability to be able to afford the imaginary basket of goods, it determines the capability of households to have access to certain basic needs or not, but looking at the angle of whether they are denied these basic needs or not.
It seems that up to now, many government officials still do not know the difference between poverty reduction and poverty alleviation. Sad to say, it seems that there are no clear poverty reduction targets at the national and local levels. As a matter of fact, poverty reduction at the local levels seems to be an alien concept among the local government officials.
Either that; or the reporting mechanisms are rather weak, assuming that certain targets are being met. In order to really make these targets however, the real starting point is for these officials to realize the difference between poverty reduction and poverty alleviation. On one hand, poverty reduction means reducing the number of households that fall below the poverty line. On the other hand, poverty alleviation means reducing the difficulty of being poor.
In a manner of speaking, it could be said that poverty reduction needs economic interventions, and poverty alleviation needs social interventions. As it happens however, many government agencies and local government units (LGUs) tend to confuse these two, often making claims that they are already doing something about poverty, because they are already implementing some poverty alleviation programs.
As a matter of fact, many of these government entities would claim that they are already doing something about poverty alleviation, because they are already delivering certain public services that would have the effect of reducing the difficulty of being poor. These claims are however being debunked by the left, by way of counter claims that the delivery of public services is the default function of the government, and should not be counted as real poverty alleviation.
As a member of the United Nations and as a matter being a founding member, we should seriously consider the fact that we were not able to meet the target of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to cut poverty by half from the period year 2000 to the period year 2015. That is now water under the bridge, because the new target of the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is to reduce poverty down to zero from the period year 2015 to the period year 2030. That is indeed a tall order that would appear to be a daunting task, but we have committed to the attainment of the SDGs not only as far as poverty reduction is concerned, but also as far as the other sixteen goals are concerned. Take note here that the goal is poverty reduction, and not poverty alleviation.
Although the measurement of achieving the SDGs is done at the national level, nothing prevents us from measuring these goals at the provincial levels as well. As a matter of fact, that should be the proper way of doing it, since all national data should come from below, meaning to say that the national data should just be the aggregate of the local data. For all intents and purposes, the reduction of the poverty rate at the provincial levels should be the main agenda of the Provincial Development Councils (PDCs), if they are functioning at all. All things considered, the bottom line here is job creation, because it is through job creation that more households could go above the poverty line. Needless to say, the creation of new Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) should also be prioritized, because it is through the creation of more SMEs that jobs could also be created.

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