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The J Spotter

Personal insights from the J Spot author J. Angelo Racoma
( this site has moved to http://jangelo.racoma.net )

The J Spotter » Population Management - Are we up to it?

Population Management - Are we up to it?

This article, which appeared in the 1 December issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer reports on yet another paper published by professors from the UP School of Economics making a stand on our present economic situation, this time entitled "Population and Poverty: The Real Score". Recall that a few months back, they published " The deepening crisis: the real score on deficits and the public debt" (click here to download a PDF copy), a paper warning on an impending fiscal crisis if Government does not implement concrete--and drastic--measures to curb a possible debt default, which would lead to credit downgrade/s and consequently further make it difficult for the government to finance its deficits (due to higher cost of borrowing). Recall further that I likewise made a blog post commenting on their publication on fiscal crisis. Now they're raising another issue. I hope the Administration would listen to the distinguished UPSE professors, similar to how Malacañang seemed to have listened and reacted when the paper on the looming fiscal crisis was published.

Status report: as of writing, the Executive had facilitated/fast-tracked the endorsement to Congress of eight revenue-generating measures, four of which had been passed, albeit with revisions. The Executive had likewise fast-tracked various "reorganization," "rationalization," "streamlining," "austerity"--or whatever you may call it--programs in order to arrive at a leaner bureaucracy.

If you ask me, I'm still not quite comfortable with Government's passing the buck, or letting us, commonners, carry the burden of providing the solutions, for instance in affording government employees (such as myself) lesser benefits in terms of allowances and other material or non-material perks in the face of the possibility that we would have to carry the brunt of the increased taxes (which may ultimately be passed on to us as consumers), and when big-time officials are known to be spend-thrift with government resources. And recent developments show that corruption still abounds even--or most especially in?--the highest echelons of government and the military. This is also in view of Congressmen still holding on to their PhP 70 million each in pork barrel allocations when they can instead allow for some cuts to at least be able to contribute to the pagtitipid (savings). But I guess that's life. Perhaps I can only count on a move, prospectively in the near future, to the more lucrative and challenging private sector, if I want to provide better for my growing family (and as well rid myself of the various headaches that are constantly hounding me with all these issues I am involved in given my line of work).

Come to think of it, the Administration may have reacted to the paper on fiscal crisis in an opportunistic manner, since it greatly benefited from public perception especially on the perceived need to immediately undergo several drastic measures, which would have faced much opposition without an adequate justification or precedent. But it cannot be denied that circa 2002 to 2003, international publications (FEER, the Economist, Newseek, Time) were already discussing about an impending debt crisis in the country, which is precursor to a fiscal crisis.

Dr. Arsenio Balisacan, my professor in Development Economics at the UPSE (DE 291, which I took first Semester of SY 2004-2005) and, at present, also the director of SEARCA - the SEAMEO Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture, made it a point to emphasize that an uncontrollable population growth rate is one of the main reasons why the Philippines, which used to be one of the fastest-growing, now lags behind its ASEAN neighbors in terms of economic growth and development.

Dr. Balisacan had co-authored a study, "The Population-Poverty Nexus: The Philippines in Comparative East Asian Context," which, is a part a Philippine Center for Population and Development (PCPD)-supported publication "The Ties that Bind: Population and Development in the Philippines." The findings ...

... showed that the Philippines and Thailand were neck and neck in terms of population size and per capita GDP in 1975. Twenty-five years since, Philippine population ballooned to 75 million while the number of Thais was pegged at 62 million. In the same year Thai women have, on the average, only 2 children or a total fertility rate (TFR) of 1.9 while the Philippine TFR stood at 3.6 or an average of 3 to 4 children per woman.
The decline in the population growth rate of Thailand is complemented with an increasing per capita GDP, growing to about 8 times the 1975 level. Indonesia 's per capita GDP grew 6.5 times and South Korea 10 times. And the Philippines ? A measly 2.6 times! But it had the highest population growth rate of 2.36 % a year, on the average, among the four.
How much would the savings be in terms of the cost of education and health services if the Philippine population growth followed that of Thailand ? According to the study, from 1996 to 2000 some 52 billion pesos from the health sector and 128 billion from the education sector from 1991 to 2000 could have been saved. These savings could have been spent instead on the agricultural sector where most of the country's poor belong. With greater investments in agriculture, slower population growth, and a rise in income, rural poverty could decline by 70 percent and national poverty by 60%.

(A PDF copy of the "layman's version" of the research can be downloaded through this link.)

In our class, the professor often stressed the importance of supporting theory with empirical evidence, and as well the need to distinguish between correlation and causality. Now while there are numerous theories on the relationship between population and economic growth and development, it is evident from empirical findings that Government needs to take a firmer stance in population management if it is serious in reaching its goals for the economy.

Oddly, Dr. Balisacan is not one of the authors of the new paper. I was expecting he would be, given the topic, and given that he claims this to be an advocacy of his. The professor related to us that he had, upon invitation, presented the results of his study to Congress early second semester of this year, when the population issue was still hotly-contested, given Rep. Edcel Lagman's sponsoring/proposing legal measures to provide for more reasonable population management programs/policies. Sadly, the media's pick-up of the issue was quite hyped, as they focused on population- or even birth-control (which, I was informed, was quite far from what was proposed).

With all the ensuing national issues and problems, including the fiscal crisis scare, corruption scandals in the military, and most recently the wave of typhoons still currently devastating our northern and southern Luzon regions, the discussions on population management were thrown to the backburner. But with the emerging arguments being brought forward by some distinguished members of our academic community, perhaps we can again actively discuss the importance of considering the contribution of sound policies and programs in population management to the economic growth and development of our nation, which is, arguably, currently still in bad shape (yes, contrary to media spin by the Administration).

We cannot turn a blind eye to this pressing issue. We cannot just let our population grow at an uncontrollable rate for preference for 'natural' methods of family planning by the dominant institutions. I would argue that it would, indeed, be more attuned to the teachings of our faith to be humane and compassionate to our less fortunate brethren by working for an improved economic situation in terms of growth and development--most especially growth and development deemed to be equitable.

It's a difficult challenge, most especially in coming to a consensus on the matter. But for sure, we have problems, and someone has to address it at some point. As the old Philippine Collegian headline went, "Kung hindi tayo, sino? Kung hindi ngayon, kailan pa?" (If not us, then who? If not now, then when?). I hope the Church, Government and, more importantly, society, will be up to it.

- J. Angelo Racoma

By this time you may have already noticed that UPSE professors seem to be fond of "real scores."

I have yet to secure an e-copy of the publication cited, but once I do, I will post a link here. An excerpt from the Inquirer article (emphases mine) follows below.

UP economists ask Church to soften population stand
Updated 05:18am (Mla time) Dec 01, 2004
Blanche Rivera - brivera@inquirer.com.ph

THE COUNTRY'S top economists have called on the Catholic Church hierarchy to adopt a "more tolerant and humane" stance on the need for a national population policy for the sake of the poor who are suffering because of their large family sizes.

In a paper titled "Population and Poverty: The Real Score," 17 economists from the University of the Philippines School of Economics said the Catholic clergy in the country should allow families to choose their preferred family planning method, consistent with the Second Vatican Council's teaching that the final arbiter of moral decisions is one's informed and responsible conscience.
poverty incidence in the country rose significantly with a bigger family size. Poverty incidence for a "family of one" is 9.8 percent compared with 57.3 percent for a family of nine or more.

"Family size is directly related to the vulnerability to poverty or the likelihood of falling into poverty owing to exogenous (external) shocks," the paper said.
"It is more difficult to improve governance than adopt a national population policy. Improving governance would take several decades to achieve based on the experience of other countries, so we're saying it is easier to adopt a population policy to help address poverty," [Dr. Ernesto] Pernia said.
The economists identified three elements for an effective population policy:

• Reduction of unwanted fertility, which accounts for 16 percent of the population growth. The economists urged the government to use public funds to buy contraceptives as most poor families do not have access to an effective family planning service.

• Raising the quality of education and fostering women's empowerment that would lead couples to want smaller families. A large wanted family size contributes 19 percent to the country's population growth.

• Creating job opportunities for women that would result in later childbearing age and wider birth spacing that would slow the population momentum, which accounts for 65 percent of the population growth.

"These measures are mutually reinforcing and, if backed by appropriate reforms in the economic and other social sectors, would bring about the best results... Even if not much can be done about public investments in infrastructure owing to the fiscal constraints, it would help ease the demand pressure coming from rapid population growth," the paper said.
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This is a response made by Fr. Vicente Marasigan, SJ to my post, as re-posted in COPA-NET. According to Fr. V, he had attempted to write the rsponse as a post here, to no avail. Technical glitches, perhaps? Thanks for the comment. =)


From: "Vicente Marasigan" vic@p...
Date: Thu Dec 2, 2004 9:16 am
Subject: Re: [COPA-NET] The J Spot: Population Management - Are we up to it?

My position is given in paragraph 2370 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. How is it to be “softened”?

Fr. V.


2370 Periodic continence, that is, the methods of birth regulation based on self-observation and the use of infertile periods, is in conformity with the objective criteria of morality.158 These methods respect the bodies of the spouses, encourage tenderness between them, and favor the education of an authentic freedom. In contrast, "every action which, whether in anticipation of the conjugal act, or in its accomplishment, or in the development of its natural consequences, proposes, whether as an end or as a means, to render procreation impossible" is intrinsically evil /159

Thus the innate language that expresses the total reciprocal self-giving of husband and wife is overlaid, through contraception, by an objectively contradictory language, namely, that of not giving oneself totally to the other. This leads not only to a positive refusal to be open to life but also to a falsification of the inner truth of conjugal love, which is called upon to give itself in personal totality. . . . The difference, both anthropological and moral, between contraception and recourse to the rhythm of the cycle . . . involves in the final analysis two irreconcilable concepts of the human person and of human sexuality /160


Read the article of Bishop Antonio Ledesma of the Prelature of Ipil in Southern Zamboanga entitled “Natural Family Planning and SDM in the Local Church.”


Posted by Blogger J. Angelo Racoma on Friday, December 03, 2004 10:51:00 PM  

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