Sunday, May 29, 2011

RH Bill: The Lost Equation

There is much greater hype these days regarding the very controversial Reproductive Health (RH) Bill. Much has happened since my first post. Developments include the recent revision on the Bill's full-text, as well as the issues raised and defenses made by the anti and pro-RH advocates, respectively, during the past interpellations in Congress and debates on national TV.

I remain steadfast on my belief that a bill seeking to protect women's reproductive health and promote responsible parenthood should be passed into a law. Doing this provides an enabling mechanism to promote development in the country.

With this, let me break some more myths, half-truths and false assumptions regarding the Bill, as well as summarize the reasons why I think it should be passed.

1. Half-truth: The RH Bill cannot solve poverty.

The truth is, the RH Bill alone cannot solve poverty. But it intends to complement all other development programs of the State through population control.

At this point, it is fitting that we take a look at poverty using the lens of a social entrepreneur. As such, let us use a simple business equation:

Revenue – Expense = Net Income

Revenues should be the returns on the State's social investments like training teachers, building infrastructures, and generating employment. This is the area where most of the nation's development efforts go to. Over the past decades, we've seen how education gets the biggest slice on the annual national budget yet, how come Social Weather Stations quarterly surveys show that poverty continues to worsen? Is it practical to say that we'd rather see P3 billion of our budget be allocated to the same programs?

Similarly, efforts made by the past administration to generate more jobs in the ICT and BPO sectors have indeed contributed to providing jobs that will stimulate the economy. But then again, why do more and more people claim that they are poor and hungry?

If many of our so-called solutions do not seem to work or at least, takes time to work, then perhaps it's time that we finally address the other element in the equation. That is, control the 'expense' by managing the population through responsible parenthood.

I believe that one of the reasons why interventions made to improve access to education and availability of jobs seem insufficient is that the numbers continue to grow by the year. Success indicators should not be number-driven; rather, it should focus on the percentage of population producing results out of the benefits provided by the government's programs.

Unless we address this part of the equation, we will be just running in circles, asking ourselves whether it's the chicken or the egg.

Addressing population growth while continuing, improving and scaling up development programs will yield greater national growth and development, which, by then, has more possibility of being equitably distributed.

To be continued...