draws real numbers vs 2028 economic plan

CHEERS TO for its report that looked at current economic figures in connection with the goals of the Philippine Development Plan (PDP), government’s “aspiring” economic plan for 2023 to 2028. On January 11, Kurt Dela Peña drew the numbers from official statistics, presenting numbers that challenge the government’s claim of attaining the long-term goal of higher economic growth.

Dela Peña notes the PDP’s objective, as released last January 1, that it wants an economy that would be “beneficial for every Filipino.” He cites the major objectives expressed in the plan: to steer the economy back to “a high-growth path” through “inclusivity,” equipping Filipinos with skills to “participate fully in an innovative and globally competitive economy.” More specifically, it aims to maintain an annual growth domestic product (GDP) rate of 6.5 to 8 percent from 2024 to 2028. It also wants the country to be ranked among the top 33 percent in the Global Competitiveness Index by 2028.

Dela Peña also enumerated the target numbers in unemployment rate per year, and the poverty incidence rate target. More to the point is his question: “But how can the Philippines achieve all these?”

Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan said that “economic growth should come with better paying jobs.” But while the unemployment rate eased a few points from 4.5 percent in October to 4.2 percent in November 2022, a closer look into the statistics shows that more employees also want to have additional hours of work or additional jobs. 

The report cited economist Sonny Africa who explained that out of the 2.6 million jobs created between October and November, 2.2 million were part-time jobs, while the rest were work without pay in family-owned and  operated farms or businesses. The official numbers actually include unpaid work on the part of family members as well as part time labor, which were however unquantified in the PDP. Ed Lustan’s graphics illustrated the data for further clarity. 

Africa also pointed to the declining purchasing power which Filipinos experienced sharply with the start of the new administration. The report explained how inflation went up slightly higher at 8.1 percent in December from 8 percent  the previous month. It traced the inflation spike in December 2022 mainly to the higher annual increase in the price index of food and non-alcoholic beverages; of restaurants and miscellaneous goods and services; and clothing and footwear.

Africa called attention to poor and low-income families as the most heavily affected by the price increases in basic goods and services, and  how inflation has pushed the family living wage (FLW) – the income a family of five needs to live decently – to an average of PHP 1,146 per day nationwide. This means the average daily nominal wage of PHP 404 nationwide is only one-third of the nationwide FLW. 

The report gave space to Balisacan in its conclusion: The PDP “seeks to build on the significant gains the country has achieved in the past two decades, mindful of some setbacks caused by the pandemic.” 

The report reminds journalists that government numbers and statements require their scrutiny, and reporting what public officials or documents say must draw from views other than the administration’s. The PDP has always served as a wish list, a document that aspires which, without implementation, only produces paper. Right now, the President and his much vaunted economic team have a long way to go to fulfill the promises Marcos made to the people.