Arroyo Redefines Economic Indicators to Hide Crisis

Jul. 24, 2006

MANILA — In its effort to present an illusion of economic improvement, the Arroyo administration revised statistical methods and definitions to come up with better social indicators and make them consistent with the growth hype, said independent think-tank IBON Foundation.

However, these efforts– which are increasingly earning their distinction as Arroyos brand of economics– have failed to paint a rosy economic picture, said IBON executive editor Rosario Bella Guzman. On the ground, the economic growth is a fantasy as people continue to face joblessness, high prices, and abject poverty.

Speaking at the Midyear Birdtalk, Guzman cited that by simply changing the definition of joblessness, and not by job creation, the Arroyo government was able to reduce the unemployment rate to 8.2% in April. But IBON estimates that job scarcity is 43% of the countrys labor force.

Guzman added that because of redefinition, government pegs the national average poverty threshold per day at only P33.72, which means that a Filipino who earns this much daily is already considered non-poor. This has allowed the Arroyo government to claim that it has lowered poverty incidence from 33% of the population in 2000 to 30 percent. But IBON estimates (using the daily cost of living) that as many as 8 out 10 Filipino families, or some 12.8 million families (or around 76% of the population), may be poor.

Government labor agencies also use the poverty threshold figures to set and justify the meager minimum wage, which despite the recent P25 wage increase in NCR, is only 44% of the estimated cost of living for a family of six (P675.54 as of June 2006).

The increase is obviously not enough to keep up with the countrys high cost of living, which is a result of high prices brought about by monopolies in vital industries, Guzman said. The Arroyo administration had the most number of oil price hikes (69 times since 2001, or an average of once a month), and was also responsible for making power rate hikes regular (26 times from 2001 to 2005). Water rates also had the steepest increase under Arroyo.

All these point to the realities of hard life for the ordinary Filipino. Unfortunately, instead of facing this reality squarely, the Arroyo administration chooses to hype increasing growth figures and redefine economic indicators. However, its efforts of creating the illusion of progress are unsuccessful because the social crisis is raging on, said Guzman. (IBON Foundation)

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