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Bacolod City, Philippines Monday, May 30, 2011
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Alleviating poverty


A columnist in a national daily cited the case of a woman and her family that the same paper featured to show how miserable the life of this poor family is and he asks what the advice of Church is to this woman because of the Church opposition to RH bill. He, in effect, blames the Church for the plight of this poor family with several mouths to feed.

Instead of asking what the advice of the Church would be, should he not instead ask what the government is doing to alleviate the life of this family? The Church is not responsible for providing jobs, social services that would have made their lives better. The government collects taxes, under pain of penalty, to provide for this woman and her family. That is not the role of the Church but of government, therefore the question should be asked of government, not for advice but of action.

His point is that people are poor because people have many children and if only the Church does not oppose contraception then this family would have less mouths to feed and therefore they would be better off in life. This fallacy has been peddled since 1960 when the pharmaceutical companies discovered the pill and invented all sorts of birth control gadgets. Even if this family has no child, if there is no work they would still starve.

If the government has created jobs, then the father of this family would have a job; if the government has provided sufficient education then the children would be better equipped for the many jobs the government created; if the government agencies performed their jobs the social services would be available to this woman.  But there are no jobs, education is expensive, social services are inadequate because government functionaries receive allowances in the millions just for attending meetings; graft and corruption take away 30 percent of the budget; public works are overpriced by the millions – we can go on, ad nauseam, where money that would have created jobs, provided education and social services have gone.

Why blame the Church for the corruption that takes away food from the poor?  Read Time Magazine (May 10, 2011) and see how Lagos in Nigeria changed. It was described as city with “epic overcrowding (that) has spawned a host of other difficulties not only legendary traffic but also unemployment, poor housing, crime and disease.” Although about 85 percent of its income comes from oil and therefore ought to be financially better this same income “detaches a government from its people” and Lagos became a classic “world’s first failing megacities.”

When Babatunde Fashola became governor in 2006, he considered Lagos as “a place of very evident despair,” but he also said “the poor may lack money as individuals but together, in their tens of millions, they represent a massive untapped resource.” He did not look at the 10 million people of Lagos as mouths to feed and must be reduced by controlling the birth but rather as an “untapped resource.” He declared “in everything I saw, I saw opportunity”.

The situation he said was a “chance to relieve its poverty”. He cited the example that if there are bad roads that means “we need engineers and laborers” and listed a host of interlocking uses of human labor. He created thousands of new jobs in construction and municipal projects – 42,015 in environmental and waste management alone. He trained 250,000 in new trades and provided microloans.

He did not give away money like the billions of pesos for Pangtawid Family that go down the drain but used the money as wages and in the process labor, meaning people, like the husband of that featured woman could earn. Labor, the teeming millions of poor people became the major resources that transformed Lagos. Good and honest governance, not money for free condoms and contraceptives alleviate poverty. Money without labor could do nothing.

Instead of blaming the Church we should look at the billions being siphoned by corrupt officials, billions that could have created jobs, improved education and social services to bring out the poor from their squalor. Who are sending billions of dollars each month to this country but children of the poor who trained in lowly jobs, worked hard abroad and send back dollars that big shots don’t do? We must look at our human resources as our real wealth. If government officials do not steal the money we could have trained more people. Who send billions to the Philippines but children of the poor who were trained in lowly courses and worked hard abroad and create the momentum for the economy?*



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