MANILA, August 11, 2013—The lack of a concrete development plan and continuous failure of the government to address the emerging inequality in the country’s economy are signs of a looming “lost decade” under the Aquino administration, a non-governmental organization said on Friday. 

Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) president Ricardo Reyes said that despite the robust economic growth of the country, the widening gap between the rich and poor remains unsolved. 

“We can see in President Aquino’s recent SONA (State of the Nation Address) that there is no direction. It seems like he goes through the same path ventured by the previous administration,” he said in the vernacular during his talk at the Kilusang 99% academic forum held at the Adamson University. 

Reyes added that the government either barely discusses or completely disregards important proposals that could solve the societal issues faced by the country. 

“We fear that another lost decade may emerge, considering the prevailing instances of malnutrition, joblessness, homelessness, and decline of education in the country,” he said. 

Gini coefficient 

The serious problem of economic inequality still prevails in the country as the Philippines registers the highest income inequality in South East Asia and one of the highly unequal in the whole world as measured by the Gini Coefficient, according to Reyes. 

The Gini Coefficient measures income inequality and ranges from 1 to 100. 

According to the National Statistical Coordinating Board (NSCB), the country’s Gini Coefficient declined from 49 in the late 1990s to 45 in 2009, still pegging a relatively high value and exceeding many other Asian countries. 

‘Serious inadequacy’ 

Reyes also lashed out the Philippine Development Plan (PDP) adopted by the Aquino administration, saying it does not correctly address the developmental needs of Filipinos from various societal sectors. 

“The PDP has a very serious inadequacy…It is in very rare chances that this document gets presented in the open to facilitate discourse among sectoral councils and civil society groups.  If we are to assess, only few individuals know this document,” he said. 

He added that Filipinos must be vigilant in assessing the PDP for it defines the reform agenda adopted by the government, as well as the money allocation for its priority projects. 

He also criticized the formulation of the PDP, noting that it must be debated in Congress and must pass through public scrutiny to truly reflect the issues it needs to address. 

“The PDP should be scrutinized by both the Congress and the citizens. An ideal development plan should be discussed, debated, and must undergo public consultation, not that they would formulate and approve it by themselves. It is very important that we engage ourselves to its formulation for its contents are vital for the growth of the country,” he said. 

Contribute to human development 

Reyes emphasized the role played by human development in the improvement of a country and said the government must focus on projects that can contribute to the progression of human resources. 

“The most important aspect in improving the economy is the human factor. Human development is not only about what a person can contribute to the society as a whole, but it is also about the improvement of his personal capabilities as an individual,” Reyes said. 

He recognized the anti-corruption efforts of the present administration, but noted that it lacks proper connection with the country’s socio-economic agenda. 

Aside from putting an end to the never-ending issue of corruption, Reyes said that the government must strive to improve its development plan in such a way that it really addresses the pressing issues faced by the country’s marginalized sectors. 

“Even if corruption gets successfully resolved, if a country’s development plan remains inefficient, improvement will still remain out-of-reach. Our resources will just be wasted and we will continue living the way we do at present,” he said. (Jennifer M. Orillaza)