Savings in the midst of hunger
The latest survey made by Social Weather Station in September 2020 showed that 7.6 million families or 30.7% of the total number of Filipino families reported involuntary hunger for the past three months. That is equivalent to a little more than 33 million Filipino souls.
What is worse is that, of this total, 2.2 million families, or about 9.7 million citizens experienced severe hunger, which means being hungry often during the past three months.
At about the same time when the survey results were released, it was disclosed that the Dept. of Social Welfare and Development has an unspent amount of P10 billion of its Social Amelioration Program (SAP) funds, which it labelled as savings.
Ben Punongbayan, Chairman and Founder of Buklod, a national political party, pointed out that nothing can be more incongruous than the respective messages that those two events portray. The picture they produce is absolutely ridiculous, he said. There is widespread hunger and yet there is a large amount of money allocated to avoid hunger that is still not spent.
Obviously, there are at least two problems that need to be fixed, according to Punongbayan.
Firstly, the amount of the amelioration funds is insufficient, he said.
Secondly, the management of spending the amelioration funds need vast improvement, he continued.
The first one is a matter of public policy that the government needs to address soon to mitigate widespread hunger. The second is a problem relating to the bureaucracy.
According to Punongbayan, it needs a short and long term solutions. For the short term, those in-charge should find an efficient way of identifying those citizens who need aid but still has not received any; and look for a better way to send the money to the beneficiaries faster and avoiding graft entirely.
Punongbayan said that providing aid to poor Filipino citizens will be with us for a long time to come. For this reason, we need to establish a permanent framework in managing this activity.
He said, we need to compile a complete list of those poor families who need assistance. This new list shall supersede any existing list.
This can be done through the speedy implementation of the national ID system. In hindsight, if the Philippine Statistical Authority rolled this out last year, the bureaucratic delays in the SAP funds could have been avoided in this pandemic, Punongbayan emphasized.
Furthermore, one of Buklod’s public policy programs is to provide a guaranteed and unconditional basic income to all poor Filipino families, presently determined at an initial amount of P40,000 per family per year.
If and when given the chance, Buklod will use modern technology in setting up and managing the distribution of this valuable assistance to the poor.
Punongbayan: One of Buklod’s public policy programs is to provide a guaranteed and unconditional basic income to all poor Filipino families, presently determined at an initial amount of P40,000 per family per year.