Bridge gap between rich and poor Pinoys, priest urges gov’t leaders

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MANILA, July 4, 2013—A Catholic priest has urged government leaders to bridge the widening gap between rich and poor Filipinos by improving the government’s economic policy and adopting a concrete development program to settle the perennial problem of poverty in the country.

Fr. Edwin Gariguez, executive secretary of the National Secretariat for Social Action-Justice and Peace of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP-NASSA), said that setting the government’s priorities to the needs of the less fortunate would address this imbalance and drive poor Filipinos toward financial stability.

“First, we have to scrutinize the program of the government. How are we empowering the poor ones? If actions do not match the promises delivered by the government, genuine change will never be attained,” he said.

Gariguez downplayed the reported growth of the country’s economy and said that while statistical growth may really be a good indicator of an economically improving nation, real progress will only be manifested if the effects of the growing economy would trickle down to poor families.

“Essential development is neither measured by the increase of monetary resources nor the improvement of certain economic indicators. It is measured by maintaining equity and bridging the gap between the rich and the poor,” he said.

According to the National Statistical Coordinating Board (NSCB), the country posted a 7.8 percent Growth Domestic Product (GDP) in the first quarter of 2013, a notable increase from its 6.5 percent from the same period in 2012 and the highest since President Benigno Aquino III assumed his post in 2010.

The country’s credit rating was also raised by international debt watchers from the “junk” bond status to the minimum investment grade of BBB-. The investment grade rating symbolizes a sound fiscal economy that assures the prompt payment of debts to the creditor.

“We can only say that we have attained notable growth once poor families already enjoy the supposed benefits of a robust economy,” Gariguez added.

Money dole-outs

Gariguez recognized the poverty alleviation efforts done by the government, but noted that the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) program, which involves money dole-outs to poor families, only provides a short-term solution to poverty.

He said that to come up with a more comprehensive solution to the problem, the government must adopt a stricter economic policy that takes the plight of poor families into careful consideration.

“With the widening gap between rich and poor families, you could not help but ask: Does the economic policy of the government favor the poor? Or is it only designed to make rich investors grow richer?” Gariguez said.

“The issue on poverty alleviation remains a complicated matter. The government must adopt a more comprehensive approach in order to let equity reign and help poor individuals attain progress,” he added.  (Jennifer M. Orillaza)

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