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EDITORIAL: Institutionalizing Mendicancy

“Give man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach him how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime” – Lao Tzu.

Wittingly or unwittingly government authorities tasked in charting the economic direction of the country, are in effect planning it in a reverse manner. This can be noticed in a number of economic policies, which on the surface appear to be boosting economic growth but in reality are anti-poor.

Foremost is the directive prohibiting the sari-sari store owners from selling over the counter medicines. While it may have a short term beneficial effect, it is actually making life harder not only for the store owners but also for the poorest of the poor whose residences are not readily accessible to drug stores, so that once they are in immediate need of medicines as palliative, they have to shell out additional expenses for transportation to and from the pharmacy, which would have been unnecessary if the medicine like paracetamol is available at a nearby sari-sari store by walking.

If authorities are genuinely concerned about the plight of ordinary people, they should go after unscrupulous manufacturers and distributors of fake medicines. The move also deprives sari-sari store owners opportunity to generate lawful income as after all they have already been licensed to operate their business.

Another indicator of anti-small entrepreneurs’ policy is the refusal to remove or at least reduce the excise tax and value added tax and offering instead a P200 monthly subsidy for every individual, which many negatively describe as adding insult to injury.

Indeed, what can P200 a month do to cushion the impact of the worsening economic crisis ? The amount may be aptly described as lollipop given to children to silence or stop them from crying while in pain.

Granting the demand for the suspension of the dreaded taxes is a better course of action. It does not kill private initiative and promotes entrepreneurship, so that in the long run, entrepreneurs may be able to contribute in the overall efforts to lessen the impact of the economic crisis. No matter insignificant or short lived it may be, suspending such taxes is better than the P200 monthly subsidy which strangles entrepreneurship.

These two policies mentioned are just among those making it very noticeable that the government is departing from a very elementary let alone policy. In fact, embracing the policy of distributing “ayuda,” nurtures a very passive society as it is breeding laziness as a consequence of over dependence.

The same can be said about Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps). There is no verifiable indicator that 4Ps or any form of dole outs has improved the living conditions of the poor. To be blunt about it, they may have become unproductive, knowing as they do that they are about to receive the regular government subsidy.

If the living conditions of the poor have become better, how come that they are still selling votes which a very demeaning practice, one that converts their well-being to sub-human standards.

It would have been better if plans and programs were instituted to render the citizenry more productive by providing them with skills and opportunities for work and enterprises.

By sticking to the policy of providing dole outs, government may have become popular but not at all responsive to the real needs of the people. In brief, adopting “ayuda” to help the needy may create a short-term impact, but in the long run, it is a short-sighted strategy for socio economic stability. It is very susceptible to red tape.


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