Sectoral group criticizes PH income inequality

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MANILA, August 11, 2013—Citing data from a business magazine’s list of 50 richest Filipinos, a labor group on Friday slated the glaring income inequality between rich tycoons and average laborers in the country. 

Partido ng Manggagawa (PM) spokesperson Wilson Fortaleza said the problem of wealth concentration plagues the country as it gravely affects marginalized Filipinos who remain poor despite the reported robust growth of the Philippine economy. 

Fortaleza used the data presented in the 2013 Forbes Magazine Philippines’ 50 richest in contrasting the wealth possessed by the country’s leading business moguls against those acquired by Filipino minimum wage workers. 

As of June 2013, the daily minimum wage rate at the National Capital Region (NCR) ranges from P419 to P456, data from the National Wages and Productivity Commission (NWPC) showed. 

Deriving figures from his own computation, Fortaleza added the net worth of the country’s top 10 richest individuals amounting to P1.9 trillion. According to him, the amount corresponds (in value) to the year-long salary of 20.99 million minimum wage earners in the country.

The top 10 richest Filipinos in the 2013 Forbes Magazine list are Henry Sy and family ($12,000 M), Lucio Tan and family ($7,500 M), Andrew Tan ($4,600 M), Enrique Razon, Jr. ($4,500), John Gokongwei, Jr. ($3,400), Jaime Zobel de Ayala and family ($3,100 M), Family Aboitiz ($3,000 M), David Consunji ($2,700 M), George Ty and family ($2,600 M), and Lucio and Susan Co ($1,900 M). 

Further expanding the computation, he said the added net worth of the country’s richest 50 individuals totaling to P2.8 trillion amounts (in value) to the accumulated annual income of P30.9 million minimum wage earners. 

“Our country consistently exhibits economic growth. That is already proven and we should not focus much attention to it for it is not the real problem faced by the country,” Fortaleza said in the Kilusang 99% academic forum held at the Adamson University. 

“The problem lies with the degree of inequality between the rich and the poor. As time passes by, the gravity of this inequality worsens. There is growth but the problem of inequality remains unsolved,” he added. 

According to the National Statistical Coordinating Board (NSCB), the country registered a 7.8 percent growth in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for the first quarter of 2013. 

Growth model criticized 

Fortaleza said the growth model adopted by the government is not efficient in achieving inclusive growth across all sectors of the society for it prioritizes the flourishing of businesses and investments and not the development of human capital. 

“A lot of debates in global and international conferences have criticized the growth model. Present proposals push for full growth that includes the development of human resources and not just the growth of large businesses,” he said. 

He cited the low ranking of the Philippines in the Global Pay Scale where it rated with the third lowest average wage in the world amounting only to $279. 

The Global Pay Scale features the average wage of 72 countries as calculated by the International Labour Organization (ILO) and published by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) in 2012.  The country with the highest average wage is Luxembourg with $4,089, while the lowest is Tajikistan with $227. The world’s average wage is $1,480. 

Clamor for wage increase 

According to Fortaleza, a way to address the country’s perennial problem on hunger and poverty is through ensuring food security, providing full employment, and increasing the minimum wage of average laborers. 

He cited Brazil as an example of a country that has succeeded in using this approach. 

“The Brazilian government knew that doubling the minimum wage of laborers would strengthen their economy,” he said, contrasting the approach used by the Brazilian government against the one being used by the Philippines. 

Approaching the problem with a fresh perspective that respects the right of each individual to attain progress is the way to solve this economic problem, he said. 

“There should be no divide between those who deserve to develop and those who are out of opportunity to even try. We can overcome this through effective cooperation,” he said. (Jennifer M. Orillaza)

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