Wednesday, May 25, 2005

A Priority: Poverty Alleviation

The PCIJ blogsite dealt on the deteriorating conditions of poverty in the blighted island of Mindanao.

Here’s a related essay I wrote that dealt somewhat on a direction to take, toward poverty alleviation:

Indeed, with the current advances in technologies, we are beyond the cusp of just being able to gather/sift through information generated from all possible sources around the globe at dizzying speed, since this facility is already available to just about anybody, equipped with the earnest desire to make a difference in this world we live in.

Thus, it is quite easy even for me who lives at least 7,000 miles away from the Philippines and having left it more than 25 years ago, to make an adequately reasoned analysis and determination as what would be the most pressing problems in that beleaguered country.

In a country then which has been micro-analyzed and polled by innumerable agencies, both local and international, incontrovertible evidence/reports point to more pressing problems requiring more immediate attention.

Admittedly technology, particularly in the field of electronics, comprises a very significant portion of the country’s exports. Available stats show that 60% of exports are in electronics, and 50% of destination ports are in the US and Japan. And the current slump has greatly reduced those numbers. However, there are more insidious stats that cry for more immediate attention and solution. About 40% of the country’s population exists under very dire poverty conditions, Mindanao being home to a good percentage of this sorry lot. Unemployment? Maybe in low double-digits. But in the same vein, there seems to be no issue of challenge on an underemployment rate of 20% on those employed. In tandem, these are very scary stats, and this deadly combination of poverty and underemployment weighs even heavier on an already fragile society and economy, greatly emaciated as a result of world-wide economic and political upheavals.

Thus, while the varied concerns of IT and its ramifications in the Philippines are grave, poverty alleviation undoubtedly takes first priority.

Can we feasibly channel our IT discussions here toward the greater task of economic empowerment of those most dispossessed in that milieu?

Let me end by adding the following statements below, culled from various sources:

”…..three major issues were tackled: poverty, unemployment (or
underemployment as is most common in the Philippine context), and
social disintegration. While not all problems of unemployment and
social disintegration can be traced to poverty, it is very clear that
these three issues are closely related.

It cannot be denied that social problems which lead to the
disintegration of the social fabric like criminality, drugs, violence
especially against women and children are linked to poverty. This is
not to say of course that all criminals, drug addicts and violators
of women and children are poor.

Aside from economic, financial and social costs, poverty has
political costs as well. Chronic and unresolved problems of poverty
tend to translate into political issues which threaten stability. It
is not surprising that the regions in the country which are
identified as among the poorest are also hotbeds of rebellion."

It seems clear that poverty alleviation should be the first order on
any agenda for reform. Or phrased negatively, one could rightly blame poverty for declines in moral and social values; and not just of the poor, but society in general.

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