ULY 24, 2013 (PHILSTAR) Based on official government data, poverty levels remained unchanged from 2006 until early last year. Making a difference in this area is the main challenge to the administration of daang matuwid or straight path as President Aquino embarks on the second half of his term.

Health coverage and other social safety nets for the poor have been expanded.

Kindergarten is now universal and free.

The conditional cash transfer is a boon for the deserving poor, but it can only go so far.

Approximately 40 percent of the population lives below the poverty line, with the benefits of robust economic growth meaningless especially for the extremely poor.

Rules are still heavily skewed to favor the tiny elite that controls power and wealth.

In reporting on the state of the nation today, President Aquino is expected to trot out strong economic growth figures, the country’s investment grade, the breakthrough in peace negotiations with Islamic separatists, and his continuing campaign against corruption, although in this fight, he remains focused on the alleged sins of the previous administration. The pork barrel, long seen as a source of graft, is unlikely to be abolished.

The next three years should see the investment grade translating into investments that will generate jobs – not seasonal work at harvest time, but the type that will make Filipinos rethink plans to find decent employment abroad.

The nation’s economic growth is driven by consumption, powered mostly by the billions of dollars remitted annually by nearly a tenth of the population that is overseas.

The remittances make for rosy economic figures, but the diaspora has meant the loss of skills needed in this country, and it has social costs.

In the next three years, the nation should start catching up with its neighbors in terms of competitiveness, in ease of doing business and quality of education.

The nation is being left farther behind by its neighbors in terms of infrastructure, innovation and the creation of goods. We still can’t fully operate the NAIA Terminal 3 and the Metro Rail Transit 3 is bogged down in a corruption scandal.

This year the Aquino administration had its own massacre case, with police officers among the principal accused. Since that massacre in Quezon, more cases of suspected extrajudicial killings have been reported.

There are many positive indicators: business process outsourcing continues to provide better paying jobs, real estate is booming, and there’s an influx of enterprises catering to the enormously wealthy.

Amid all the positive indicators, however, the failure to make growth inclusive keeps popping up.

For President Aquino, time is running out to address this failure. The next three years should be marked by a sense of urgency.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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