L’arbre qui cache la forêt !

Il faut comprendre que, si l’exceptionnelle croissance que connaissent les Philippines depuis plusieurs années ne bénéficie qu’à une poignée de familles, cette croissance ne pourra perdurer.

Il est prouvé que dans la majorité des pays, la croissance est avant tout tirée par la consommation des ménages. Si ces ménages ne voient pas leur pouvoir d’achat augmenter, ils ne pourront consommer.

Donc, une redistribution plus équitable de la richesse est absolument nécessaire afin de soutenir durablement cette croissance. Faute de quoi, le pays, qui sort tout juste de la catégorie des pays en voie de développement, y retournera irrémédiablement.

If the combined wealth of 10 of the richest Filipinos represents the income of more than 20 million wage earners, then what inclusive growth is President Benigno Aquino III talking about?

A workers' group on Friday assailed the chief executive's assertation before the World Economic Forum (WEF) on East Asia that the Philippines, through the Filipino people, had made inclusive and remarkable growth doable. The group said that while there might have been progress, this failed to trickle down to the poor.

Partido ng Manggagawa (PM) chairman Renato Magtubo said that based on his group's study, the estimated US$45.3 billion combined wealth of the country's 10 richest people is equal to the annual income of 21 million miniumum wage earners - a proof that economic growth does not translate to substantial poverty reduction as its benefits remain concentrated in the hands of a few.

"The Philippines is not a fantastic story of economic miracle but an old testament to this kind of regional growth pattern where a handful of business elites control more than half the economy," said Magtubo.

“The Philippine government cannot claim ‘inclusive growth’ until this ratio of inequality is effectively reversed,” he added.

Basking in the international acclaim of one of the region’s most astounding “economic miracles,” Aquino on Thursday attributed the country's remarkable growth to the collective effort of the Filipino people.

"When many of you have praised the achievements of the Philippines, we always point out that the pursuit of large-scale reforms in every aspect of governance is the achievement of the Filipino people," Aquino said in his speech at the opening of the WEF in Manila.

"They made the goal of achieving inclusive growth doable, and it is also they who will make it irreversible," the President added.

But Magtubo countered Aquino's statement, saying that any mention of the word "people" at the WEF, "won’t go beyond the context of market – open markets for corporate products and cut-price and flexible labor markets for their efficient operations."

“Thus the WEF cannot brag about wonders and miracles when Asia remains the biggest home to the world’s poorest people epitomized by workers in vulnerable employment,” said Magtubo.

The Asian region has the highest rate of informalization in the world, according to PM.

"As defined, informal workers are the own-account (self-employed) and unpaid family workers combined. They also include workers in irregular (contractuals) or seasonal employment," Magtubo explained.

He said that recently, informal workers had been labelled as precariats or workers living in precarious working conditions.

The group said the International Labor Organization (ILO) had estimated the Asia-wide “vulnerable employment” in 2007 at 1.1 billion people or 62.2 percent of all workers in the region, while informalization in the Philippines is estimated to be between 41 and 77 percent.

 Asian countries including the Philippines must address the rising income inequality to ensure economic growth will be sustainable and inclusive, the International Monetary Fund said on Friday.

"There is an empirical study that income inequality is high and associated with short duration of high economic growth. You might be able to enjoy high growth for a short amount of time, but it's not sustainable," IMF deputy managing director Naoyuki Shinohara said in a forum entitled "Rethinking Economic Growth" at the World Economic Forum on East Asia.

Shinohara said fiscal policy plays a big role in addressing the issue of income disparity with governments in this part of the world having “not enough” taxes, providing huge amounts of tax exemptions and suffering from corruption.

"If you look at countries in Asia, the size of government is relatively small. It means the role of government allocation of income is relatively small compared to other regions," he said.

Shinohara pushed for higher income taxation compared to consumption taxation, such as value-added taxes, with the latter being "regressive" and "hitting the poor more than the rich."

However, VAT may have its benefits if combined with social transfer mechanisms, he said. The Philippines, Mexico and Brazil have implemented conditional cash transfers, while Japan spends its VAT on the government's social security programs.

"If the design of [social transfer mechanism] is not right, it can harm the efficiency of the economy. There needs to be a good balance between efficiency based on mechanism and whatever the social value we have to protect," Shinohara said.

"Taxation and income transfer in the area of social program will reduce income inequality by one-third," he said.

Nandu Nandkishore, executive vice president for Asia, Oceania, Africa and the Middle East of Nestle, said businesses can also assist government in making economic growth sustainable. He said Nestle is working directly with 700,000 farmers, noting that agriculture is one of the biggest employers in the world.

"One of the fundamental beliefs in Nestle of the way we approach business is that the only way we can sustainable create value for shareholders, is if we simultaneously create value for the society in which we operate," said Nandkishore.

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