Close the MDG deficits, look beyond 2015 – Social Watch Philippines

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This article was first published on Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement

With two years left to go before deadline of the United Nations – Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), prospects of achieving the country’s commitments are far from reassuring.  However, considering the lag time involved, government targeted action – policies, programs, activities – may yet produce a brighter picture come 2015.

The assessment was made by Isagani Serrano, co-convener of Social Watch Philippines (SWP) and president of the Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement (PRRM), in a 2012 report on the status of the MDGs.

Copies of the report entitled: Breaking Through to Sustainability Philippines, was presented by former National Treasurer Leonor Magtolis-Briones, lead convener of SWP and first nominee of the Kaakbay Partylist, to the members of the House of Representatives led by Deputy Speaker Lorenzo Tanada III and National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) Director Arsenio Balisacan during simple rites at the House of Representatives in Quezon City on Wednesday.

The report, a partnership project of Social Watch Philippines and the United Nations Millennium Campaign, takes off from “SWP’s 2010 MDG Shadow Report” which reported that the Philippines was in a worse poverty situation in 2010 than when it started on the MDGs in 2000 because many of the quantitative indicators on key goals are still between the low and medium probability of achievement when they should all be on the high side going into the last five years.

SWP came up with an assessment of the Aquino administration’s performance and how far it has gone to achieve the MDGs, with recommendations on the post 2015 agenda.

“The report was a result of research and consultations with different stakeholders including non- government organizations, government representatives from the executive and legislative, members of the United Nations and individuals,” Briones said.

In its latest report on the status of the MDGs, SWP said that the country is in the same lagging MDG indicators as in 2010.

It cited for instance, the maternal mortality rate (MMR) per 100,000 live births has increased to 221 in July 2012 from 97 in 2011 and 95 in 2010.

This, Serrano said, is somewhat ironic considering the reported improvements in health infrastructure and MMR data gathering.

The proportion of births attended by skilled health personnel remains far short of target 100 per cent and progresses slowly from 58.8 in 1990 to 74.3 in 2009, the report noted..

“The spike in HIV-AIDS cases is worrisome.  And so is the resurgence of TB cases,” the report stressed.

Meanwhile, notwithstanding the increasing inputs in education—annual budgets, programs – performance in most of the education, which is the indicator for MDG 2, continues to lag behind.

While Pres. Aquino, in his 3rd State of the Nation Address (SONA) gave a picture of progress in curbing corruption, infrastructure, incremental increases in spending for MDG and social development.

Benjamin Diokno, a former secretary of the DBM, cited however in his Business World column on May 08, 2012 about “some compelling bad news”, that “poverty has reached new peak” during Pres. Aquino III’s watch and “involuntary hunger has reached a new peak ever.”

Briones, who also heads the Alternative Budget Initiative (ABI), was critical of the President’s report to the nation, pointing out the government’s flawed macroeconomic targets and inadequate financing for MDGs.

 

On the other hand, former Pres. Ramos’ socioeconomic planning secretary and NEDA chief Cielito F. Habito said that Pres. Aquino’s challenge is creating quality jobs.

While there is reduction of unemployment to 6.9 percent from 7.2 percent in 2011, the country remains heavily dependent on overseas Filipino workers.  About 8 million Filipinos or more than two and a half times those unemployed at home are working overseas, which help ease the pressure on job scarcity, bring in windfall fortunes that keep the banks awash with money and grow the country’s international reserves to incredible levels.

Economic indicators suggest the economy is growing but the inequality is rising.

According to the report, economy’s growth of 6.4 percent in the first quarter of 2012 was a big surprise. But along with such economic growth, there is parallel rise in inequality alongside this growth narrative.

“Growth benefited a few and excluded so many, thereby widening the rich-poor gap even more,” the report stressed.

In conclusion, Serrano said that while it would seem that Pres. Aquino, in his first three years, has been doing things right to correct the ‘evils’ of the past and improve public service, Mr. Aquino has yet to make a real dent on existing power structures that brought the country to its current poverty and inequality situation in the first place.

“Pres. Aquino’s so-called inclusive growth is not inclusive development. Trying to include some excluded and left-behinds in a never-ending catch and provisioning strategy is not development for all. It’s just striving for a little bit of fairness in this very unequal and fragile world,” Serrano said.

According to Serrano, investing in a vibrant social enterprise sector that would create sustainable livelihoods and build local economies would go a long way in the pursuit of redistributive justice in favor of the poor and marginalized.

“Good governance is a value in itself but does not guarantee sustainable development. Breaking through to sustainability means making MDG history, reducing inequality, respecting limits to growth, enlarging rights and freedoms. It means engaging in social entrepreneurship, adapting to changing climate, building resilient communities, building a resilient planet,” he said. (end)

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