Along with its neighbors, the Philippines was burdened with a high poverty rate and faced the same challenge of overcoming underdevelopment four decades ago. Today, Vietnam, Indonesia, and Thailand have drastically reduced poverty and possess vigorous economies. In contrast, over 26 per cent of the population of the Philippines is trapped in poverty and the economy languishes in a state of underdevelopment.
Explaining the Divergence
What accounts for the difference?
Economic policy? Hardly, since all four countries followed export-oriented economic strategies over the last four decades.
Structural adjustment? Not really, since all four economies were subjected to some variety of market-oriented reform, though it is arguable that adjustment was milder in our neighbors than in our country.
Asset and income redistribution? No, since as in the Philippines, state-promoted asset and income redistribution programs in Thailand and Indonesia were either weak or nonexistent.
Corruption? Again, all four countries have been marked by high levels of corruption, with Indonesia being a consistent topnotcher in annual surveys.
There is, in fact, one very distinctive feature that separates the Philippines from its neighbors: unlike our country, Vietnam, Indonesia, and Thailand managed to rein in the growth of their populations through effective state-sponsored family planning programs. And while successful family planning is not the whole story, economists and demographers have a consensus that it is an essential element in the narrative of economic advance in our neighboring countries.
One might compare the Philippines to an overloaded passenger plane that is trying very hard to take off but cannot quite get more than a few feet above the ground and is fast approaching the end of the runway.
The country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grew by only 4.5 per cent in the last decade. With population growing at 2.2 per cent per annum, the average yearly growth rate of GDP per capita (GDP divided by total population) was only 2.3 per cent. This was simply too low to make a difference in terms of containing poverty. Indeed, while Indonesia, Vietnam, and Thailand have reached the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of halving the number of people living in poverty by 2015 ahead of schedule, the Philippines is definitely going to miss it. And with so much of GDP being devoted to consumption as opposed to investment –owing partly to the high population growth rate – neither was there much of a chance that the country would be able to attain, in this decade, the 6-8 per cent annual GDP growth rate that economists say is necessary to launch the country into sustained growth.
The challenge is enormous. Even if the fertility rate were to be brought down to the replacement level of 2 births per reproductively active woman in the next decade, owing to population momentum – or the tendency of a population to grow despite a rapid decline in fertility owing to a simultaneous decline in the death rate – the Philippines will probably not see its population stabilize until the latter part of this century. Had the country attained replacement level fertility in 2010 – which it did not – the population would still have continued to grow and reach 150 million in 2060, after which it would have stabilized. If the replacement level fertility is achieved in 2030 – which is more realistic, according to demographers – the population will stabilize at 200 million in 2080. Under a less optimistic scenario of replacement level fertility being attained even later, say in 2050, the population will stabilize at more than 250 million towards the last years of the century.
The numbers are worrisome since a population of 200 million or 250 million would be a tremendous burden on the country’s carrying capacity, or the number of people a region can support without suffering significant environmental degradation. When carrying capacity is outstripped by population growth, an ecological crisis develops, then erupts in many directions.
Read full article @ opinion.inquirer.net
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