On Poverty and the Population Crisis

Manila Bulletin, February 10, 2005 | Go to article overview

On Poverty and the Population Crisis


Byline: Estefania Aldaba-Lim, Ph.D.

(Estefania Aldaba-Lim, Ph.D., is a former minister of Social Services and Development in 1977 and former United Nations Special Envoy for the International Year of the Child 1978-1979.)

RE: Anti-poverty Program at no cost to the government

As the newly appointed Minister of Social Welfare in 1971, we embarked on a series of reform programs to reach out unserved poorest of the poor during the period: The idea was to change, transform the dole out mentality of "Welfare" to "Development" of the individual, the empowerment of the objects of welfare-dole outs. Notably to what we called the Self Employment Assistance Program or (SEAP) at no cost to the DSWD budget which at that time (1971) was a measly? R17 million/ annum.

How? First and foremost, we invited the Cabinet wives to organize themselves as the volunteer group to help the poorest of the poor. They called themselves "Lingkod Bayan." As an experiment each member adopted a poor family, lending the wife or husband a small capital to start a livelihood program. For example: R100 loan at that time could easily buy 10 to 15 kilos of bangus which she peddled around town or sold in the market. At the end of the day, the R100 had become R120, which R20 profit was more than sufficient to feed the family. She saved R2 for the payback loan. The loans at that time ranged from R50 to R500. Yes, R50 could buy an assorted "bilao" of vegetables and ripe bananas, which she sold in the neighborhood. A R500 loan to a husband could start him to open a repair shop.

The program was so successful that the wives of congressmen and senators joined the Cabinet Ladies Volunteers group.

To spread the idea beyond Manila, wherever I was invited to speak before Rotary, Lions and Jaycees luncheon meetings, I would appeal to their civic duty to help the poor in their district or barangay to be Ninongs and Ninangs to poor families for the SEAP. It was not difficult to convince the Rotarians, Lions, and Jaycees and their wives. The SEAP concept was spread all over the country.

By the way, when we requested the Economic Development Foundation to evaluate the effectivity of the SEAP in terms of returns of the loan, we were told that the poor were better loan risks than the "farmers Masagana Loan Program" during that same period, according to Mr. Cesar Saruio EDF who evaluated our SEAP. I recall the PNB was impressed with our SEAP program that PNB donated R1 million for our loan/SEAP program at that time.

In thinking about our anti-poverty program today, Her Excellency, the President and DSWDs "food for peace" coupons I understand (per my inquiry with the office of DSWD Secretary Soliman) not even 10 percent of our poor is helped. Let us rethink over our anti-poverty program to go back to a tested SEAP program.

Good news relevant to a majority of our anti-poverty programs. The United Nations declared "2005 as the United Nations Year of Micro Credit." The idea of sustainable micro finance services for the Filipino entrepreneurial poor will hopefully bring millions more Filipino poorest of the poor into the mainstream of development. How? Through consolidating a number of donor groups into one solid "Banking System" with low interest rate for the poor. Example Gawad Kalinga, and many others NGOs involved in fund raising to help the poor. …

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