The poverty situation in the Philippines may be seen as a microcosm of what is happening among the developing and the least developed countries around the world. Statistics show that in the last 10 years of the 20th century, the actual number of people living in poverty increased by at least several hundred millions at the same time that total world income actually increased by an average of 2.5 percent annually.
In stark terms, therefore, the poor have become poorer and the rich have become richer. A famous comparison recently made is that the western European nations continue to subsidize their cows at us$2.50 per head -- which is more than 2.5 times what 1.2 billion people live on at less than one u.s. dollar a day. Figures released by the UNDP in its human development report ( HDR) in 2002 draw a similar picture of increasing poverty for a vast number of people in the face of economic growth for a few.
The plain truth is that a great majority of humankind is being deprived of their rights to human security, bereft of the benefits of education, primary health services, decent housing, basic education, and gainful livelihood• poverty is inextricably bound together with the other key issues of the environment, peace and development, and globalization.
In the competition for greater material wealth, most people have accepted some dictums without question, not realizing that what is medicine for one may be poison for another. To an unprepared society, a liberalized policy may lead to a long-term net loss not only in incomes, but also in social costs. Liberalization has been a bitter pill backward countries had to swallow -- only to discover, with tragic effects, that is not the cure they were looking for. "Have-not" countries continue to be faced with problems in the implementation of their obligations under the WTO agreement.
Because of liberalization in the industrial, services and agricultural sectors, many developing countries face dislocation of local industries, products and services as these are generally small- or medium-sized and, therefore, are unable to compete with larger multinationals or foreign companies that are able to market cheaper imports due to economies of scale.
Developed countries and the special interests within them have campaigned for the globalization agenda over the years. They have pushed for open markets for their industrial goods in poor countries but have, just the same, maintained their own protectionist systems, especially on agricultural products• from the point of view of the have-nots, the current levels of protectionism in developed countries are scandalous.
For instance, OECD member-countries reportedly spend over us$350 billion every year to protect their agriculture sectors -- or almost us$ one billion each day -- far more than the total us$50 billion devoted to development assistance to poor countries. In their mistaken belief that "one-size fits all" and their unrelenting focus on economic growth and financial stability, multilateral institutions and donor countries have imposed conditionality that are beyond the capability of poor countries to handle.