Tuesday, November 13

On “Family Planning” (Part 3)


I shall now tackle the substance of the Philippine Star's questionable advocacy for the Lower house of Congress' appropriation of P2 billion in the proposed 2008 national budget “specifically to promote family planning including the use of contraception.. meant for birth control”.

The editorial summed it all up by its ending statement: “Any government that is serious about fighting poverty has to give priority to slowing down population growth”.

In other words, the argument boils down to a) we have to limit population growth down to significantly less than the present 2.36% which it claims to be “too high for the benefits of the country's modest economic growth to trickle down to the poor; and b) supposedly, the only way and best way to do this is to promote artificial contraception for the purpose of birth control; and c) The Catholic Church is the “biggest opponent of contraception”, hence, to agree with (pandering to) the Church will allegedly result in “abandoning any form of family planning”.

Incidentally, it was an ironic coincidence, but surely providential, that Our Daily Bread section for that day, immediately followed the editorial. The commentary was so relevant: “We need both God-ordained government to care for the people (Romans 13:1-7); and people who have a proper view of God and His guidelines for life (Proverbs 14:33). These trenchant Biblical quotations were indeed also unwittingly but clearly an admonition to the Philippine Star editorial writer!

By its giving top priority to “slowing down the population growth” as the primary and immediate vehicle for “fighting poverty”, the editorial apparently (or deliberately?) attempted to dilute our people's raging protests against corruption at the highest levels of government. It also perhaps explains the frequent eyebrow-raising absence or killing of corruption-related news in this newspaper's front pages, in stark contrast to its biggest rival's usual choice of prime news.

Be that as it may, population growth control has always been the favorite and convenient vehicle for anti-Catholics, so-called “modern liberal” Christians and some nominal or even sincere Catholics too, for them to be able to portray the Catholic Church clergy and hierarchies as the primary scapegoats for the world's failure to reduce widespread abject poverty.

Let me therefore marshal and present the contrary facts and circumstances, at least here in the Philippines to start with, that point directly to REDUCTION OF CORRUPTION in government as the surest antidote to widespread abject poverty among Filipinos.

Our lowest House of Congress has approved ( for the Senate to agree or amend ), a P1,200 billion (approximately) national budget for next year. At least fifty percent (50%) of that is by present law, mandatorily allocated for debt servicing purposes, leaving only about P600 billion for the Filipino people.

Modesty aside, I have some postgraduate academic education and teaching credentials as well as executive work experience in the related fields of international finance, investment banking, in lending and borrowing too, of substantial amounts of money. I mention these personal aspects of poor me, in order to be able to say hopefully with some credibility that: there has always been and still is a lot of corruption and self dealing in the business of lending and borrowing money, abroad and more so in the Philippines, especially in the rarefied confidential levels of government officials and investment bank executives.

If my credibility in saying so is not enough, then perhaps the pages, past and present, of TIME and FORTUNE magazines, including the local newspapers' coverage of the recent ZTE scandal, should be convincing enough even for skeptics.

But I shall leave for another time, my in-depth suggestions for debt clean-up and/or relief, as another HUGE and REALISTIC source of funds for poverty alleviation.

So let's go back to where I left off on the 2008 national budget's remaining P600 Billion after providing for debt servicing.

I am quite confident that if you ask any reasonably frank and national budget-savvy Senator, Congressman or a senior MalacaƱang budget-officer including somebody like ZTE scandal witness Romulo Neri, as to what MINIMUM PERCENTAGE of this remaining P600 billion can easily be SAVED if we had an honest-to-goodness SYNDICATED CORRUPTION-FREE presidential, departmental (cabinet), congressional and senatorial batch of executive officials and elected politicians, their answers would range from at least TEN PERCENT to as much as THIRTY PERCENT.

And so let us start with the lowest potential SAVINGS figure of TEN PERCENT of P600 billion, which is P60 Billion.

The World Bank's most recent surveys indicate that some 11 million Filipinos now live on US$1 or less everyday. At an average of 5 members per family, that means 2.2 million families scratch out a living on the paltry amount of P215 per day.

Dividing P60 billion in savings from less corruption in government by 2.2 million families, will get us P27,272 annually per family EVERY YEAR! Nowadays, even middle income class family members flock like mobs to TV shows, just to get a 1000-to-1 chance of winning a prize worth on the average much less than P27,272, and once only in their lifetime.

Now let's go to the same simple arithmetic behind the supposed material benefits of reducing population growth.

Let's assume that strictly and only because of the widespread use of contraceptives, the latest LIVE birth rate of approximately 4% as applied to our 11 million poorest Filipinos will be reduced by one-tenth, or by 0.4% . Multiplying that last percentage figure by 11 million, gets us 44,000 as the number of families who would have NO BABIES born as a result of our assumed reduction of the live birth rate.

Now let's assume further that the government's expected SAVINGS because of 44,000 less poor babies born, is equivalent to the estimated cost of subsidies for such poor families having a baby born and reared for one year. I shall give it a generous estimate of P21,000 for the first year, consisting of P15,000 for the pre-natal and government hospital cost, and P6,000 (P500/month) for milk and other miscellaneous expenses. Multiplying P21,000 by 44,000 families, gives us P924 Million.

In short, reducing the live birth rate will THEORETICALLY save the government, because I have assumed that they will have such a “trickle down” subsidy program for the poor, about P1 billion per annum altogether. Compared therefore to the minimum P60 billion worth of cold cash benefits from reducing corruption-generated THIEVERY by only one-half, that theoretical P1 billion becomes INSIGNIFICANT! And I have not even subtracted the P2 billion required to promote the use of contraceptives...

We can all play around with the arithmetic, but the empirical results will still and always bring us to the same conclusion that the undoubtedly MORALLY NECESSARY and EDIFYING option of reducing corruption in government, compared to the artificial and morally questionable program of reducing the birth rate of the poor, is FAR and AWAY a more practical and doable enterprise. It will also not put to risk the spiritual health of our materially poor brethren!