By Floro L. Mercene
“Jesus Christ said: ‘The poor shall always be with you,’” says Ilocos Norte Governor Imee R. Marcos. But she has other ideas that have allowed her constituency to bring down poverty level to a mere 1%. This is a feat that deserves replication by local government units nationwide.
Marcos clarifies that the so-called “Biblical poor,” what Christ referred to as people who would always be with us “are the aged, the infirm, the sick – and we set aside subsidy funds for them.”
She gave a face to poverty in Ilocos Norte by non-traditional, unorthodox reclassification. “It takes an entire village to join in the efforts to combat poverty,” she noted.
Aside from the “Biblical poor,” there are “seasonal poor,” and “breakthrough poor.” The seasonal poor are victims of calamities or nature’s forces and Imee sees to it that they’re employed in jobs that pay out cash up front. “Even if only for a short time so the local economy could recover.”
She focused on the breakthrough poor, those growing cash crops on their own land, those about to graduate from college and are about to land jobs, and those with skills while seeking work.
“These are the guys we focused on to tame poverty in Ilocos Norte, and somehow it worked,” she enthused.
She said different needs have different solutions. She reveals that if she opted for a blanket approach to poverty; “these won’t be felt at all. The strategy works at the local level but it is doubtful if it would be effective at the national level.”
“We can’t go and visit everyone in every house of those in need of help.”
“At the local level, we can be aggressive in pursuing such a strategy. And everybody has to join in this war against poverty,” she said with finality.