By Kezo Andre Javier

More than one month into the new administration, there have already been significant changes in how the government handles public affairs. The new set of officials brings with them new ideas on public administration, especially concerning the country’s economy. But despite this seemingly radical shift, the same old problem persists – inefficient management of the government worsening social issues instead of solving them. And while the administration has the luxury of time to offer their way out of these problems, the same cannot be said for the ordinary Filipino struggling to make ends meet every single day.

Cartoon by Maurice Gimena

During a Senate inquiry, Health Officer-in-Charge (OIC) Maria Rosario Vergeire disclosed that more than 20.66 million vaccine doses were wasted mostly due to expiration as of August 12, equivalent to 8.42 percent of total procurement. Using P500 per dose as a baseline, Senator Risa Hontiveros said that this wastage cost around P10.33 billion. Vergeire may have noted that the COVAX facility will replace the wasted vaccines but unless the government will implement a different strategy to encourage Filipinos to vaccinate, the result will likely be the same.

While the government faced vaccine shortages in the past years, it is ironic that tables have turned already that despite campaigns to boost vaccination rates, people still opt not to take their shots even if the supply is already there. The efficient distribution of vaccines and handling of the pandemic, in general, would have meant an earlier safe opening of the economy which could help millions of Filipinos regain their losses from the lockdowns. Instead, there is a strong push to open the economy despite the imminent threat of COVID-19 due to low booster vaccination rates, in addition to another health risk of monkeypox.

Meanwhile, the Commission on Audit (COA) has flagged the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) for its failure to distribute donated goods for Typhoon Ulysses victims, some of which have already expired. Based on their audit report, COA pointed out that out of 126,172 in-kind donations received by DSWD Region II, 21,824 are yet to be distributed. Aside from this, the goods have already been deteriorating due to exposure to various rotting factors. These would have been much-needed relief for those who have been greatly affected by the disasters. Unfortunately, due to a lack of proper resource management, instead of helping ease the difficulties of ordinary Filipinos, they have to resort to being resilient while donated goods end up getting wasted.

And just recently, the DSWD has gotten itself into another issue as a supposed “miscommunication” drew a massive crowd of people at their main office applying for educational aid as promised by the agency. Secretary Erwin Tulfo himself apologized for the ensued chaos, telling the crowd that the department will not be able to cater to everyone present. Later that day, he said that they will coordinate with local government units to make the cash aid distribution more organized. These Filipinos only wanted some help from the government especially since face-to-face classes are beginning amidst soaring inflation rates. The agency owes it to them to make the cash aid distribution efficient and more accessible by bringing down the process to the local level, there is no reason why they would not have done it in the first place. Instead, people had to suffer first before changes were made.

Owing to these and many other government inefficiencies, it is unsurprising that the national poverty figures have worsened through the years. Based on the latest report from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), poverty incidence rose to 18.1 percent in 2021 from 16.7 percent in 2018. From this, it is estimated that around 19.99 million Filipinos live in poverty. While the pandemic could be blamed, the various inefficiencies and mismanagement from the government cannot be discounted. The past administration implemented extended lockdowns without a clear path to pandemic recovery. These limited economic activities cost millions of Filipinos their jobs. Moreover, the lack of urgency to address the pandemic is leaving the door open for another surge of cases, something the government could not downplay anymore. If these were to happen, lifting millions of ordinary Filipinos from poverty may be a long road to take.

The government is one of the, if not the most, vital actors in the Philippine economy. The pandemic has shown that a huge part of our lives as citizens of this country depends upon the decisions of public officials. With the worsening poverty situation combined with the rising prices of goods, there is no room for inefficiencies in government measures to address these issues. We cannot afford to waste valuable resources, especially on our path to economic recovery. It may just be a matter of policy direction for the higher-ups but for the ordinary Filipinos, it could mean their lives and survival.

All of these being said, where is the President? Well, check your parties—maybe he’s there.