Tuesday, 05 July 2011 11:34
The City Government of Zamboanga recently adopted a rare but nonetheless praiseworthy economic ordinance that created the Cooperative and Rural Economic Enterprise Development Office (CREEDO). The ordinance served to institutionalize an old loan program intended to provide financial and capacity-building support to livelihood projects at local communities. A seeming deficiency of the ordinance though lies in the fact that it does not fix a regular budgetary appropriation for the program. That leaves it at the mercy of bureaucratic expediency and discretion, or even politics as we know it.
A member of the Sangguniang Panlungsod, Councilor Mel Sadain, when interviewed on television last week concerning his assessment of the first year in office of the incumbent city administration, lamented the lack of initiatives to generate employment and livelihood for local residents, majority of whom live in flagrant poverty. He observed that City Hall is more inclined to put money in infrastructure projects than in poverty alleviation and social services.
Generally, infrastructure projects are vital to economic development. Building classrooms, which is a favorite of Mayor Lobregat, supports public education and this empowers the poor in the long term to overcome oppressive living conditions. Farm to market roads are indispensable to farmers, other roads to the movement of goods and services, and health centers enable people to be fit to earn a living.
Nonetheless, there exists a common perception that the city is not growing economically fast enough to provide its burgeoning population with enough jobs and incomes. For instance, the years-old Zamboanga Economic and Freeport Zone is now deemed a white elephant, a certifiable failure. Tourism, potentially the city’s big moneymaker, has been in the doldrums and will remain so for as long as communal war and terrorism are rife in the region. Manufacture is largely confined to sardines-making, and so not quite diversified. Most agricultural, aquamarine and forestry outputs are exported raw instead of being processed into finished, value-added products using local skilled labor and components.
All this may indicate a serious gap in local economic vision and that kind of entrepreneurship that have traditionally enriched societies and consequently turned them into political and cultural powerhouses. One other downside of a sluggish economy is brain drain – the community’s best and brightest who otherwise stand to contribute so much talent to local growth and social well-being are instead forced to leave town in search for greener pastures. This reduces the return on investment made to public education.
Poverty is a complex and tough problem to solve, but a measure like the new CREEDO is surely a move in the right direction. Efforts of government both local and national can never be enough; economic security, so instrumental to the enjoyment of peace in its various dimensions, requires a total approach from the total society. (Peace Advocates Zamboanga)
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