Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Philippines President: Poverty alleviation is over-arching goal of her administration


Naga City (PIA)-- President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo stressed anew yesterday that poverty alleviation is her administration's over-arching goal.

In a one-on-one interview with Ms. Sonia Osorio Leano of DWOS Naga, DWML Legaspi and DZSL Daet at the Nueva Caceres University here, the President also expressed her gratitude upon being informed that the Bicolanos in the barangays now feel that indeed the government is determined to uplift the people's lives through the various anti-poverty programs already in place.

"I am very thankful that the people are directly benefiting from these government programs," the President said.

"Poverty alleviation is the over-arching framework for all government initiatives; and, in fact, the key focus of my economic reform program in the last few years has been to translate the economic gains from our reforms into real benefits for the people, most especially the poor and this remains our focus until the day I leave office," she said.

These poverty-alleviation programs include better access to healthcare for the poor, more jobs, livelihood programs, and education.

The President also said that due to the global economic crisis, many Filipino overseas workers (OFWs) have lost their jobs, thus the government came up with the Comprehensive Livelihood and Emergency Program (CLEEP).

Likewise, she has directed all government agencies to allot 1.5 percent of their budget for programs that will cushion the impact of the global economic crisis, especially on the poor.

Other anti-poverty initiatives of the government include the Food for School Program, cheaper medicines through the Botika ng Barangay, microfinance, the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program or Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT), and the Tindahan ng Bayan programs/projects.

The President attributed the success of these programs to the availability of additional resources generated by the expanded value added tax (EVAT).

"Without revenue to invest in people, there is no progress. With this revenue, we have been able to invest in physical and human infrastructure - roads, bridges, ports. We have been able to expand access to healthcare, improve education and expand social services. And believe me, raising the EVAT taxes was no picnic. It cost me politically - no one likes to raise taxes. But it was worth every point I lost in popularity to see the nation finally get moving," the President said.

The President added that new revenue was only part of the equation in balancing the budget. Building up new industries such as the business process outsourcing (BPO) sector and expanding trade relations to diversify economic bridges were equally important.

These economic reforms shielded the country from the harsh impact of the present global crisis, she said, adding: "All of these actions were taken before there was a hint of a global crisis. And thanks to the bitter pill of fiscal reform under EVAT, we have been spared the harsher backlash of the current global financial crisis."

The President further said that the government has put in place a cushion to help the poor with the establishment of new industries like BPO that will continue to boom.

She pointed out that a P330-billion Economic Resiliency Plan was put in place to ensure sustainable growth, create and save jobs, and protect the most vulnerable sectors against the harsh effects of the global crisis.

The Plan includes accelerated spending for infrastructure, granting additional personal tax exemptions and reducing corporate taxes, expansion of social protection programs such as conditional transfers, National Health Insurance, Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps), and Hunger Mitigation Program. It also includes the creation of new employment opportunities through the Comprehensive Livelihood and Emergency Employment Program (CLEEP) and through a range of other livelihood programs.

"We will continue on a path of fiscal discipline, targeted investment and targeted relief to our poor as we weather this global storm," the President said, even as she stressed the need for volunteerism for the Filipinos to weather the global economic crisis.

"Volunteerism is important, I hope all of us will join hands in facing this present global economic challenge and emerge a winner," she said. (PIA)

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