Let me quote a press statement sent to me by Rep. Alfred delos Santos, house deputy minority leader and Ang Probinsiyano partylist representative: The poor do not feel decline of inflation to 6.6 percent.
To that I would agree 100 percent. We need not just look at the rural poor, but those in the urban areas, who are in more abject poverty condition that those in rural households where farming and fishing can at least save them, albeit marginally.
But I would like to interject here that not only the poor—those in the D and E classes—are the ones exclusively feeling the non-effect of inflation dropping to 6.6 percent. Even those in the middle income cannot feel any difference in food prices between the last quarter of 2022 and the first five months this year.
It is shocking to see prices—especially vegetables and meat—changing swiftly and in big amounts almost daily. I was shocked when I went to the public market of Tandang Sora last week. I could not help expressing my surprise and disdain at how market prices have jumped from their level the prior week before I went to market. All they could tell me was “tumaas ulit. Kahapon mas mababa ng bahagya.”
Why is that? Considering that harvest has started for most crops and the fine weather is not adverse to fishing and African Swine Fever is limited to mostly far south—Visayas and Mindanao—when our supply comes mostly from Luzon farms.
I said the rural folks are a bit luckier because they can pluck their veggies (if they planted for their sustenance) from their farms, and they can just add fish (which should be aplenty now with no storms coming yet) or even pork and eggs from the local market, which are relatively cheaper than ours here.
Delos Santos said the latest inflation figure of 6.6 percent, “although significantly lower than 8 percent, is still elevated inflation and far from the normal range of 2 to 3 percent.”
“For the poor, the food prices are what truly matter because they are in survival and subsistence modes, struggling to meet their most basic needs. Malakas ang hagupit ng elevated inflation sa mga mahihirap at hindi nila nararamdaman ang pagkakaiba ng inflation na 8%, 7%, at 6% kasi mataas pa rin lahat iyan at hindi abot ng kanilang pang-araw-araw na kita (income),”
Delos Santos also said, “many people who are struggling financially have been hoping for assistance to offset the effects of inflation, but they haven't seen any new cash distribution activities yet. If there's anything we can do to help the executive agencies with mobilization efforts, we're ready and willing to support them, as we've been doing alongside the Departments of Social Welfare and Development and Labor and Employment.”
“Given the persistently high inflation rate, I respectfully urge the Department of Trade and Industry to review prices for basic commodities, delos Santos said.
He noted that 6.6% inflation “would be welcome news and more relevant to the middle-income and upper-middle-income families because they are the ones who have larger shares of their incomes for fuel, utilities, travel, and other non-food items.” (I beg to disagree congressman).
“The lower BSP inflation forecast is also relevant to businesses because MSMEs and large corporations will earn more, especially from the middle-income and upper-middle-income families.
“About full-year economic growth (measured by GDP), more efforts must be exerted to reopen those sectors of the country that have not returned to full in-person social activity and mobility. Their limited reopening keeps the national economy from moving full steam ahead with GDP growth above 7%,” Delos Santos said.
Another piece that really turned me off was the statement of Monetary Board member Bruce Tolentino on the unviability of Kadiwa stores, the only hope for middle income and poor households to get a token relief from the heavy burden of inflation on their food budgets.
Tolentino is looking at Kadiwa solely on the standpoint of budget and finance. But what about the social purpose it fulfills. The Kadiwa is to me the mark of genuine public service for all people, where government can assist a broader segment of the population, unlike its 4Ps and other interventions.