About flattening the social inequality curve


Pope Francis once wrote, “Inequality is the root of social evil.”

Life on earth is a paradox. While global awareness is about economic growth, there are also serious contradictions such as income and wealth gaps among people, exploitation, unemployment and social tensions as a result of excesses and deprivation, corruption and looting.

In the midst of this reality, 193 members of the UN, including the Philippines, adopted the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2015, based on the principle of “leaving no one behind.” Goal 10 is “Reducing Inequality.”

In the Philippine context, the COVID-19 pandemic exposed and exacerbated the country’s long-standing socio-economic inequality. Prolonged government shutdowns, while intended to slow the spread of the virus, led to an economic recession, record high unemployment rates and more people falling into poverty. Unfortunately, not everyone had the capacity and resources to cope in the midst of a crisis as huge and unexpected as the pandemic that broke out in early 2020. What was worse, the most vulnerable segments of society became the concomitant damage from the government’s knee-jerk reaction. measures to respond to the emergency.

In fact, in December 2021, the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) reported that the country’s poverty rate in fithe first half of 2021 jumped to 23.7% – equivalent to 26.14 million Filipinos – from 21.1% or 22.26 million Filipinos in the same period in 2018. This indicates that 3.88 million more Filipinos became poor, and therefore, the downward trend in the incidence of poverty reversed. pandemic affected.

Recently, the think tank Stratbase ADR Institute organized a virtual town hall discussion (vTHD) entitled “Bridging the Gap: Reducing Inequality in the Philippines for Inclusive Growth.” During the virtual forum, members of the academy and the business community presented several solutions that can help solve the complex issue of inequality in the country.

Dr. Ronald Mendoza, Dean of the Ateneo School of Government (ASOG), observed the weak upward mobility of people due to the unavailability of decent jobs as well as the catastrophic nature of the Philippine landscape, which affects the health and economic well-being of most Filipinos . He also noted that there has been a concentration of power among political families. Empirically, this powerlessness results in biased or popular government that conflicts with the expectations and interests of their respective voters.

Dr. Mendoza said inequality is self-reinforcing. “We need to break free from this anti-democratic, anti-inclusive growth trap,” he stressed.

“We did not manage to build a more inclusive democracy. In a nutshell, we succeeded in liberalizing the economy, but we failed miserably in liberalizing our policies. In the end, even if you liberalize your economy, you will still hit a ceiling because of poor governance and because of the lack of liberalization of politics, ”Dr. Mendoza further.

It is actually good to ban political dynasties fifirst step in flattening the social inequality curve. When political power is not concentrated in a few families, incumbent leaders have less reason to protect self-interest. Public office should not be transformed into a family business; this is contrary to the intent of the country’s fundamental law.

In addition to political reforms, much needs to be done simultaneously in other areas, such as the public sector finance, education, agriculture and law enforcement, among others.

Dr. Charlotte Justine Diokno-Sicat, Research Fellow at the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS), called for the need for improved and innovative governance in the public sector, such as through strategic investments in both physical and human capital in both national and local authorities. “By bridging the gap and reducing inequality in the Philippines for inclusive growth, every single Filipino has a role to play,” she further stressed.

Meanwhile, Dr. Carlos Primo “CP” David from the National Institute of Geological Sciences at the University of the Philippines Diliman the creation of independent food production areas to improve the country’s agricultural sector and ensure food security.

In the same forum, Prof. Victor Andre’s “Dindo” Manhit, President of the Stratbase ADR Institute, highlighted the critical role that the government plays in dealing with inequality and national development. “The government should provide a favorable environment for the private sector to thrive as an effective partner for the government in making public services available, especially for those who need help most,” he said.

Therefore, a collective effort is needed to reduce persistent inequalities in Filipino society. In some countries, this is happening, among other things, through the development of a strong middle class that has access to more equitably distributed wealth, job availability through a sustainable economy, good social security and anti-corruption government.

In the midst of these circumstances, all hope is not yet gone. A turnaround can still happen if voters elect servant-leaders who uphold the rule of law and bring out the best in people.

In fact, the paradox on earth can still take a dramatic turn from self-reinforcing social misery when people realize how much power they actually have in their hands.

We should use the power of the ballot in the May 2022 election to make the direct decision to finally break free from the clutches of social inequality.

Venice Isabelle Rañosa is research leader at the think tank Stratbase ADR Institute.

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