Thursday, May 17, 2012

Putting the Philippines' Recent Economic Gains Into Perspective


Bloomberg released a very interesting graphic today: how does the Philippines stack up against its ASEAN neighbors in terms of poverty alleviation, especially given the significant economic gains that the country and region has recently been experiencing? The answer, it seems, is "not to well"?

The above graph shows the GDP growth and poverty reduction rates of three ASEAN nations--the Philippines, Malaysia, and Thailand--since 1988. We see that while the Philippines has been able to keep up with the general pace of economic growth in the region, it has been a consistent laggard when it comes to poverty reduction (where lower or more negative means less poverty, so is better). 

On the surface, these statistics make us think: if the country as a whole is getting richer and the poor remain poor, where is the money going to? What the graphic makes clear is that the income inequality issue does not only apply to the US or China, where discussions have been most lively and publicized, but also to emerging markets like the Philippines. The problem is that a lot of us, Filipinos--or at least those who have Internet access--seem to have been deluded into complacency by the outperforming stock market and recent pats-on-the-back from ratings agencies and investment analysts. Income inequality in the Philippines has been a persistent problem--perhaps now more than ever--that we need to continue (or start?) talking about to at least have a chance to solve. Unfortunately, we are all too pleased with how well we've been doing to even care.

By the way, Bloomberg, if you're reading this--what's up with that x-axis?

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