Thursday, October 07, 2004

Hungry people who need people
The government took a fine time to introduce welfare state policies. In the midst of a fiscal crisis, the Arroyo administration is now seriously considering a six-billion-per-month food voucher program to alleviate the hunger felt by 15.1% of Filipino households.

What makes this news interesting is that the food program has drawn criticism from the CBCP and certain leftist groups, people you would normally associate with such programs. CBCP public affairs head Bishop Deogracias IƱiguez even called the program a mere "palliative measure" that would be ineffective in the long run. This got me thinking. Father, if I were hungry, with nothing to buy me food, with no one to loan me money, I wouldn't really care whether the food-voucher program is a mere palliative measure ineffective in the long term as long as it palliates my hunger. If I eat nothing, in the long term I would be dead.

The hunger statistic is not as bad as it looks though. The SWS survey says that of the 15.1 percent of households experiencing hunger only 3.3 % experience it ALWAYS.

I think Sec. Bunye said it well: "Relief, however temporary, is called for as we lead on in the more fundamental and larger reforms that would deal with poverty permanently." One quick caveat though: The government should better deliver those "fundamental and larger reforms" because dole-out measures like the food-voucher program are habit-forming. Once we get used to it, we'd begin feeling we couldn't live without it.

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