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Monday, January 14, 2008

Survey: Rich-poor gap widens

Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines -- The gap between the rich and the poor in the Philippines is widening, with the richest 10 percent of families raking in more than a third of the country’s total income, according to government data released yesterday.

The richest 1.74 million families earned 36 percent of the total 2006 family income of just over P3 trillion, the National Statistics Office said in a statement.

The data placed the average family income at about P500 a day for a family of four, with few families having any savings.

It said the survey indicated “a movement towards a widening income disparity among families” as suggested by the Gini coefficient, a global standard on measuring income equality within a population.

Many Filipinos are poor because the country’s wealth has always been controlled by a a few greedy, rich families, according to Supreme Court Justice Reynato Puno.

Speaking on Thursday before the Philippine Bible Society during the launch of National Bible Week (Jan. 21 to 27), Puno explained “why very few Filipinos are enjoying the so-called good life.”

“The root cause of this problem is well-known. It is the relentless greed of a few families who, from the beginning of time, have always controlled the wealth of our country,” he said.

“These families have perpetuated their stranglehold on our country’s wealth, dynasty after dynasty. There is no end to their greed, no border to their covetousness,” he added.

Puno said the Greek philosopher Socrates was correct in saying that ultimately what makes a country poor is not its lack of natural resources but the greed of its few rich citizens.

“This cannot be denied in our society. We abound in natural resources, our seas are abundant with fishes, our mountains are full of precious metals, our people overflow with talent. Yet, we are poor,” he said.

But Puno said the problem could be corrected through “social action,” and went on to cite biblical passages concerning how riches are gained at the loss of one’s immortal soul.

He said this was why there was a “special duty” for Christians living in countries where the income gap is so wide “to undertake social action to satisfy the thirst for justice of those in the margins of our society.”

He said social action should be inspired by Jesus Christ, “the greatest social activist for justice of all of time, for He never wavered in championing the cause of the oppressed, especially in denouncing the impotence of the poor and thoughtlessness of the rich.”

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