WHILE dining in a first class restaurant at Bonifacio Global City, I told my friend that it felt like there was no poverty in our country, and that we are no longer a developing country. Having lived in New York, I do get the feeling that I am back at the Big Apple whenever I am at BGC. Looking at the menu of that fancy restaurant, I realized that the price of one steak order could already feed one poor family for more than a week. Looking at the restaurant guests who all appeared to be very rich, I realized that many of them have never ever been poor, have never been hungry and never been wanting for anything, except perhaps for those needs that money could not buy.
While walking around my hometown when I was a young boy, I stopped at a restaurant window to look at a fried chicken dish that was on display. How I wished I had the money to pay for that chicken, and how I wished that I would be able to eat that whole chicken all by myself. Maybe I was not really that hungry, but the appeal of the chicken made me hungry. Not realizing it at the time, I think that might have been the first time that I went through a period of philosophical thinking, young as I was. I pondered that I was a free man and I have all the rights to buy and eat that chicken, except that my rights were inhibited by the fact that I did not have the money to buy it and eat it.
When my brother Roy was still alive, he told me the story about the time when he was Philippine Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and when former Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) Chairman Nur Misuari was his house guest in Abu Dhabi. As the two of them were strolling near the city, they saw the skyline with skyscrapers in the landscape, and then Chairman Misuari told him that that was all he wanted for Mindanao, perhaps intimating to Roy his idea of progress for Mindanao. Remembering now what Misuari sad before, I could not help but imagine that just like me craving for the chicken, he was also craving for progress. To some extent, we could say that he wants his people to be free, free from poverty that is.
It could just be a figure of speech, but it could be said that the state of poverty is a prison that incarcerates all those who fall below the poverty line. Going along that figure of speech, we could then say figuratively speaking that the only way for people to escape that prison is to bring people out of the poverty line, thereby setting them free. Counting out welfare programs and cash subsidies, it would appear that the only way to bring them out of the poverty line is to increase their incomes is to give those people jobs and businesses. Of course that is easier said than done, but there is really no other way except to start doing it.
The National Economic Development Authority (Neda) says that the Philippine Development Plan (PDP) takes into account the country’s commitments to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations (UN), therefore it could be construed that the Philippines is committed to the goal of achieving zero poverty by 2030. It appears however that the PDP does not set percentage targets, because its wordings are rather qualitative, and not quantitative. I think that one way out of this dilemma is to define it in such a way that extreme poverty could be eradicated, but not general poverty in its entirety.
Perhaps it could be said that an improved economy will create new jobs, but we could not say the same about an improved economy that would create new businesses. It would be better to say that more new businesses would help in improving the economy, meaning that it is the other way around. While the creation of new businesses would be more difficult to do, it would seem that creating more new jobs is more doable, because there appears to be a science behind it. Not that I am naive about it, but I would have to admit that a better economy would improve the conditions for business to prosper, and in doing so, it would even create new jobs.
It’s not really original, but I believe that web portals and mobile apps could be created to support the complete supply chain of employment from training to hiring. At the backend of that system should be a robust database that could function as a matching mechanism, a feature that would solve the supposed mismatch in the labor sector. To a large extent, it could be said that web portals and mobile apps could also be created to support the complete supply chain of businesses from training to marketing. It would seem now that the common denominator between employment and business is the training stage, and that is where we should focus our attention.