Poverty blamed on scrimping

Philippine Daily Inquirer, March 6, 2008

JAMES WOLFENSOHN, FORMER PRESIDENT of the World Bank and a well-known figure in the area of fighting global poverty said rising poverty in the Philippines was partly due to government’s measly spending on education.

Wolfensohn, who delivered a speech yesterday at the Asian Institute of Management in Makati City, expressed dismay over reports that the poverty incidence in the country had worsened from 2003 to 2006, despite economic growth (See related story).

“Education spending is too little,” said Wolfensohn in a press briefing after his speech before academicians and businessmen. He cited estimates that Philippine education spending was only one-tenth to one-eighth of spending by other developing countries.
Wolfensohn said it was education that allowed poor people to take advantage of opportunities to uplift their conditions. Together with health care, education allowed the benefits of a growing economy to trickle down to the poor

“Very low spending on education is also politically unsustainable. If you have young people without jobs, that creates disturbance,” he said.

Wolfensohn added that good governance was key to better distribution of the country’s income to the needy.

“Countries like the Philippines have the wealth and capacity to do it [reduce poverty], so I hope they do it,” said Wolfensohn, who served the World Bank for a two five- year term starting in 1995.

In his speech, Wolfensohn said that while many countries are indeed becoming rich, many members of their population are being left behind. This was because of inefficiency in income distribution and lack of opportunities for the poor to improve their state.