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Breaking Down The 46 Pesos Poverty Threshold

In 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 the poverty threshold at Php 46.00 a day. This means that if an individual is earning more than Php 46.00 a day, he is not poor.

The same article was posted at DefinitelyFilipino.com and it caught the attention of Mr. Jose Ramon Albert who intimated that he works at the Philippine Institute for Development Studies. We had some “argument” where he shared some links for us to better understand how the NSCB came up with the Php 46.00 a day computation.

The main issue is understanding what comprises the Php 46.00 threshold. What are the goods included? What are the non-food items included?

Mr. Albert advised me to email Dir. Jessamyn Encarnacion of NSCB so that I may get the particulars of the food basket which I did but I did not receive any response from NSCB. Anyway, Mr. Albert was adamant that all my queries should be answered by an article posted by NSCB which you can view here.

The article by the NSCB is a response to naysayers like me as it explained how they came up with the computation and how they followed and complied with international standards. But to me, that is all that it says. It’s merely justifying the method being an international trend but not the result of the method itself.

Before we go further, let’s first tackle the relevance of setting a poverty threshold.

In the Philippines, we have what we call the Regional Tripartite Wage Board which monitors the trends of wages in their designated provinces. Increases in wage are basically based on cost of living and the poverty threshold, among others, in the concerned area. The poverty threshold also fixes the government’s focus on areas of the society that needs intervention. So if you belong to the poverty line, then the more likely that you’d be subject to government help i.e. The Pantawid Pamilya Program.

Such is the importance of setting the poverty threshold.

So, is the Php 46.00 poverty threshold enough?

I still don’t think so. The threshold is so minimal that it excludes a large number of people who consider themselves poor; it excludes other people who, though they earn more than Php 46.00 a day, are still at a lost as to how to make ends meet with the budget they have. I call this a statistical illusion which only lessens the area of intervention which the government is focusing on; it displaces other people who also needs government help.

As the NSCB defines it, the poverty threshold is a computation which combines the food and non-food threshold.  When I asked what are the particulars in the computation, it is sad that I would have to email someone from NSCB to get that information because it is not readily available online; nor was the information included when they rolled out the new poverty threshold. So basically, they said all you need is Php 46.00 a day but they did not say what can it buy that will make you survive for a day.

Anyway, days after my article was published, NSCB released the article. In this article, it can be deduced that the computation is really just for food items and non-food items are included because as NSCB mentions, there is no definite manner to compute non-food items like shelter, electricity, clothing, etc. So, in reality the so-called poverty threshold rolled out by the NSCB is just the food threshold. It does not cover expenses for clothing, electricity, etc.

In my article “Can You Live on Php 46.00 a Day?” I made a conservative computation on how much cash do we really need in a day to cover both food and non-food needs. It can be seen that on food expenses alone, Php 46.00 is not enough at all. (Please refer to the old article by clicking on the link).

NSCB claims that Phph 46.00 a day satisfies the 2000 kilocalories a day required in order to stay fit and healthy. NSCB did provide a link to a sample food bundle computation. (See their link here.) After looking at it, you can judge for yourself. Let me reproduce their table here:

The table above suggests that in Region III, for you to meet the required 2000 kilocalories a day, all you need to eat is 49 grams of galunggong.  This sounds preposterous right? I wonder if that will even reach your stomach – that’s not even a whole fish, for Christ’s sake.

You see, these statisticians and their math tools need to get out more from their offices and breathe a lot of fresh air. Hopefully, this will knock some senses out of them and make them realize that everything is not about numbers.

The poverty threshold should be redefined to include a more accurate computation of non-food items because the computation as it currently stands is flawed. The NSCB in its defense is saying that since no other country is including a definite computation of non-food items so should the Philippines not.

The government has been accused of being able to solve the problem of poverty by redefining and downgrading what “poor” means. It is time that the government acknowledges that the issue on poverty is more than just the numbers and figures invoked by the NSCB. Poverty is everywhere in this country. It’s not just 20% of this country as the NSCB figure suggests. Once the government officially recognizes this problem, then it can broaden its focus and will have a better poverty intervention program.

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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