Thursday, July 01, 2004


yesterday, before our crappy cable company crashed, i was watching channel 4's live coverage of the vin d'honneur . whilst the foreign dignitaries were being welcomed and greeted by the president, the commentators talked about the problems that the president would need to solve in her second term. i wasn't really paying attention to their discussion until one of them mentioned the country's "population explosion" and the economic hardships brought by our massive population, which the country's resources cannot support. anyway, a few minutes later, they were joined by sen. gordon who discussed how filipinos should learn from their asian neighbors who have emerged from their poverty to become economic powers. he highlighted, by the way, the example of china, the country which (gasp!) has an enormous population. i don't know if the commentator noticed that this communist neighbor has actually shown how wrong the neo-malthusian concepts he and other media people have been tagging for so long is.

they should really consider what china (and in a similar manner india) has that attracts the world into its doorsteps. could it be their advanced, educated, highly skilled workforce? nope. is it their technology, their academe, their culture or their history? nope. could it be their huge population? yes! from a materialistic point of view, china has a vast, untapped consumer market, one that many western multinational companies eagerly want to develop. thus, for china, its population has ceased to be a burden, but rather became an attractive asset. that should be a model we ought to follow. rather than see our people as a liability, we should hold them as our our greatest resource.

likewise, even if the government would be able to curb the population, would that mean that more filipinos will have the opportunity to live better lives? one of the indicators that most economists would be interested to improve is the per capita income ratio which is calculated by dividing the gross national product by the country's total population. mathematically, if we reduce the denominator, which means reducing our population, the per capita income could actually rise, and theoretically, that means each individual is better off. but does that work in the real world?

imagine that there are just 10 people in a small island and most of the wealth and resources there is held by a single individual. if we reduce the population to 5, with the wealthy individual still included, would that make the other 4 richer? mathematically it would, since there would be more wealth to go around and less people to share it with. but realistically, it won't because the rich guy still retains most of the island's wealth, and the 4 still remain poor unless the wealthy decides to actually share the abundance of that island.

please note that to certain extent, the illustration above is true for our country. the majority of the wealth in the country is held by a minority. even if we reduce their number, the poor will remain poor simply because they will still end up having no access to this wealth. the rich simply will not readily share the country's abundant resources with the rest of the population, even if they are fewer in number. thus the root of poverty is not the lack of available resources, or the growing population vying for their share of the wealth, but rather the access to our resources, or the lack thereof.

in this regard, our concern then should be to help the poor gain access to our resources to attain a better life, rather than making them disappear.

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