The Management Association of the Philippines (MAP) is optimistic about the increased awareness surrounding malnutrition and child stunting in the country. Outgoing MAP President Benedicta Du-Baladad believes that the sustained efforts by both the public and private sectors have contributed to this positive shift in attention. Malnutrition and child stunting have significant implications for the cognitive development of children, making it crucial to address these issues promptly.
Du-Baladad emphasizes that the issue of malnutrition and child stunting has been brought to the forefront of conversations, resulting in heightened awareness and expectations. She calls upon the government, private sector, and society at large to respond collectively to solve this critical problem.
In April, MAP launched a campaign against malnutrition and child stunting, aiming to complement the government’s Philippine Multi-Sectoral Nutrition Project. This initiative was prompted by a study conducted by the World Bank, which revealed that the Philippines has one of the highest rates of child stunting globally. The country ranks fifth among countries in the East Asia and Pacific Region and is among the top 10 worst countries worldwide.
The business group also highlights the impact of high food prices on Filipino families’ ability to provide nutritious meals for their children. A staggering 48.4 percent of families reported being able to afford vegetables and fruits only two to six times a week. Additionally, 52.1 percent said they could afford to eat meat in the same frequency, while 28.5 percent could only do so once a week. As a result, 36.5 percent of Filipinos turned to fast food at least once a week, and 34.5 percent did so two to six times a week.
Du-Baladad believes that collaborative efforts between the public and private sectors will continue to increase by 2024. These efforts could also address the issue of poor academic performance among students, as indicated by the 2022 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) results. The PISA results showed that 15-year-olds in the Philippines scored lower than their Southeast Asian counterparts and the average score among Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries in mathematics, reading, and science.
Shifting focus to the Philippine economy, Du-Baladad predicts a return to lower inflation and interest rates in 2024. She hopes that this will result in more income and benefits reaching those who need it most, thereby addressing income inequality. The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) forecasts a December inflation figure ranging from 3.6 to 4.4 percent. A 4.4 percent inflation rate would be higher than the 4.1 percent recorded in November.
On the other hand, a 3.6 percent inflation rate would indicate that the BSP’s interest rate hikes have successfully curbed inflation, bringing it back within the target range of 2.0 to 4.0 percent. Currently, the policy rate stands at 6.50 percent, the highest it has been in 16 years. This follows a series of cumulative rate hikes totaling 450 basis points (bps) that began in May of the previous year in response to the inflation surge.
The BSP aims to keep inflation between 2.0 and 4.0 percent in 2024. However, BSP Governor Eli Remolona Jr. suggests that inflation for the upcoming year is expected to be closer to the upper limit, around 4.0 percent, rather than the middle range of 3.0 percent. Remolona explains that if various factors, including expectations, align favorably, and inflation settles comfortably around 3.0 percent, the BSP will consider reducing interest rates.
In conclusion, the increased awareness on malnutrition and child stunting in the Philippines is a positive step towards addressing this critical problem. The collaborative efforts of the public and private sectors, along with the engagement of society as a whole, are crucial in finding long-term solutions. Additionally, the anticipation of lower inflation and interest rates in 2024 offers hope for a more balanced economy and a greater focus on addressing income inequality.
Source: The Manila Times