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Can You Live on Php46.00 a Day?

Just saw on the news that National Statistical Coordination Board Secretary-General Virola stated that all it takes for a Filipino to live for a day is Php 46.00. That’s right P46.00. Intriguing? Yes!

Life is tough here in the Philippines, no doubt about it. A lot of Filipinos are surviving on less than a hundred pesos a day, and that is fact.

I don’t know how they came up with the calculation but here are some of the implications of the stat:

1. A family of 5  will need Php 230.00 a day to survive. Or Php 6900.00 a month.

2. Php 46.00 can allow a Filipino to survive for a day if it is only used for his most basic food and non-food needs (food, shelter, clothing).

3. That if you are earning more than Php 46.00 a day, you are above the poverty threshold – which means you are not poor.

4. The previous poverty threshold was Php 52.00 a day, since they lowered the threshold to Php 46.00 this consequently placed those earning above Php 46.00  a day above the poverty line. (Sounds like a smart move to later claim that our economy is improving – but they ain’t fooling nobody here!)

5. If you’re spending more than Php 46.00 a day, you’re living in excess!

The stat is much to my chagrin. How the hell can Php 46.00 give you a decent daily living? Let’s put this to a test:

In a family of five, let’s compute their daily expenses on food, shelter and clothing.

Food: A family of five will need at least 2.5 kilos of rice a day for three meals (this is the stingiest estimate). A kilo of rice, the cheapest, is about P24.00 a kilo. So that would be  a total Php 60.00 for rice.

Of course, for “ulam” let’s try adding “galunggong” which right now is Php 120.00 a kilo multiplied by two  (again, I am making a stingy computation, let’s assume that the family will consume the 2 kilos it in three meals – the goal here is survival for a day). So, two kilos of GG will be Php 240.00.

Our total now is at Php 300.00! Let’s pause here.

We are now above P230.00 and we have not yet included expenses for other food items like water, expenses needed to cook food, or other needs, like clothing, shelter, expenses to earn money – like fare going to work.

But let’s make further computation so that we may arrive to a more accurate estimate.

Daily water consumption, (if we will use Baguio rate) is about Php 317.00 a month (minimum mandatory rate to be paid) so that’s  Php 10.50 day). Total now is at Php 310.50.

Expenses to cook food: Let’s just say the family is using coal and at Php 10.00 per plastic of “uling” multiplied by three meals that would be Php 30.00, we are now at Php 340.50.

Clothing: Let’s assume that each family member will need new clothes  every three months and they’ll buy clothes from an “ukay-ukay” at Php 20.00 per clothe ( [20×5] / 120 days). That will give us 83 cents a day for clothing. Total now is at Php 341.33.

Shelter: Let’s assume that the family is squatting and the family does not have electricity (again, just surviving or living for a day – as what NSCB wants to point out).

So, to survive, let alone caprices in life not even the most minuscule of it, a Filipino belonging to a family of five will need Php 341.33. This is much more than the estimate of the government at P230.00 a day.

Again, the calculation we’ve made excludes other commercially created needs and wants. Education is not even factored in when in fact it has been declared as a basic need. Health, sanitation, and medical needs are not factored in as well.

This makes me think that our leaders must be living in a cave so much so that they are not aware of the realities of daily Pinoy living. Or perhaps they never had cash as low as Php 46.00 so much so that they never knew it’s real worth because what they have are credit cards. Or perhaps that’s how low they look at their Filipino constituents and that they think  we can live like rats in dumpsters surviving on some people’s trash.

It is noted that cost of living in the Philippines is cheaper compared to other states. Japan has a daily cost of living average of $161.00. The United States (New York) has the base daily average of $100.00. The Philippines on the other hand, has a daily cost of living average of $23.00 (Data taken from worldsalaries.org, finfacts.ie/costofliving.htm, numbeo.com, philippines-travel-guide.com).

The $23.00 estimate coming from  international data is what a person living in the Philippines needs in order to live a decent daily life. This is even a breakeven estimate because it’s just enough for one to afford the essential amenities in daily life. Which means there are no savings for future expenses.

Now let’s also look at the daily minimum wage. In Manila, the rate is at Php 426.00 a day (lower in other cities i.e. Baguio = Php 255.00). So the minimum wage seems to be more than enough to let a laborer survive for a day- that is if you’re single. But how about if you have a family and you’re the only one working? Further, Php 426.00 a day does not even meet the $23.00 (about Php 966.00) a day standard set by international cost of living index for the Philippines.

There is really much to doubt and be cynical about the new stratification set by the NSCB. In my opinion, this is just a means to lower the number of those who can qualify for the conditional cash transfer program of the government and other government assistance program to families living below the poverty line. This may also be a move to counter calls for wage and salary increase. So if we would be flooding the streets of EDSA or Mendiola calling for higher salary, the government will just be saying “Hey look, you only need Php 46.00 a day and we’re currently giving you more than that!”

Also, this creates a statistical illusion of progress and development. Imagine how this will look like in the year-end report? They will now be claiming that in 2011, lesser families are poor compared to the 2010 data.

This reminds me of what happened during the Arroyo regime when all of a sudden they categorized jeepney barkers, newspaper boys, shoe shine boys as employed rendering an increase in the employment rate. This made the Philippines look statistically good before the IMF and so public debt was increased as more loans were given to the Philippines. Ain’t our politicians smart??

Well, this just shows how thick skinned our government officials are, perhaps not all but apparently, this is still a government dominated by persons who are being controlled by people who also control the modes of production. Life’s not fair that is a fact but the government should be there to balance the interests between the different social and economic forces. And not to merely favor those who already stand to be benefited by the status quo.

UPDATE: (December 19, 2011)

Mr. Jose Ramon Albert referenced the following resources to better understand how the NSCB came up with the Php 46.00 computation:

http://opinion.inquirer.net/18839/who-is-treating-the-poor-like-dirt

http://mail.beaconhill.org/~j_haughton/HandbookPovIneq.pdf

http://opinion.inquirer.net/18893/paradox-of-growth

http://dirp4.pids.gov.ph/ris/pn/pidspn0811.pdf

I have my reservations on this. Its up to you decide. (Read my article as featured here) Please read the “comments” section in that page.

About the author

Howard Chan (The Student)

Howard considers himself as an armchair activist. Though his street rally days are in a slumber he still advocates changes via social media. He is a strong believer that awareness of various social issues is a good starting point in order to break out from the stranglehold of an oppressive system which only benefits the few. He is also a full time student and a part time blogger, part time web designer, part time web manager/designer for various clients. (Note: Howard Chan passed the 2014 Bar Exams and was admitted to the Philippine Bar on April 29, 2015. That being, all posts after April 29, 2015 authored by him are now under the name Howard Chan for the purpose of distinguishing posts he made as a non-lawyer from posts he made after admission to the bar).

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  1. Breaking Down The 46 Pesos Poverty Threshold | Filipinolosophy

    […] an article I posted in 2011 (Can You Live on Php 46.00 a Day?), I criticized the fact that the government through the National Statistical Coordinating Board set […]

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