Surveys of ‘ayuda’
As they return to the field in this time of pandemic, it’s a new experience for the interviewers of Social Weather Stations to be mistaken for carriers of ayuda by wishfully-thinking survey respondents. We have nothing to give them, of course, as there is no reward (nor any penalty) for being a respondent; all we seek are honest opinions. (With public transportation at least partially restored, SWS has resumed its standard survey operations, starting with private projects; see “Face-to-face surveying is back,” Opinion, 9/5/20. There will be a regular Social Weather Survey before year’s end.)
The term ayuda has a special meaning in Filipino now—it is the cash entitlement from the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s Social Amelioration Program (SAP) for designated beneficiaries, though cash given by any government agency is also known as ayuda.
It is different from tulong, which also translates as “help,” but which implies charity, rather than entitlement. YouTube has several Filipino songs about ayuda that voice complaints about being too slow and/or too little compared to what had been promised by the government, and suspicions about unwarranted deductions made by government officials.
The SWS mobile phone surveys of July 3-6 and Sept. 17-20 had these two reports about ayuda: “72% of Filipinos say their families received money-help from government since the start of the COVID-19 crisis,” 7/6/20; and “71% of Filipino families received money-help from government since the start of the COVID-19 crisis,” 10/13/20.
Given the national total of 23 million families, those numbers imply that about 16 million families received ayuda, i.e., 2 million less than the proclaimed target of 18 million. To achieve the 18 million, the national proportion of recipients should be 78 percent of families. Yet, 16 out of 18 is a very respectable 89 percent.
Per the SWS September survey, ayuda recipients were 82 percent of families in Metro Manila, 70 percent of those in Balance Luzon, 73 percent of those in Visayas, and 64 percent of those in Mindanao. I don’t know if the government has separate targets in these areas. In any case, the difference between the recipient rates of Mindanao and Metro Manila is definitely significant, since the sampling error margin is only plus/minus 6 points in each area.
A family could obtain ayuda more than once. However, from the start of the crisis up to mid-September, 67 percent of the recipients nationwide got it only once: These were 86 percent in Mindanao, 71 percent in Visayas, 65 percent in Balance Luzon, and 39 percent in Metro Manila. Consequently, the average number of times a family got ayuda was only 1.16 in Mindanao, 1.30 in Visayas, and 1.37 in Balance Luzon, compared to 1.77 in Metro Manila. This shows the geographical disparity of the numbers and the frequency of the ayuda.
The September SWS survey asked for the number of times that the family received ayuda and the amount of cash received each time. This way, it logged the total amount received since the start of the pandemic. The national average received was P7,531 per family from the start of the COVID-19 crisis. Multiplied by 16 million families, that gives a total expenditure of P120 billion, which is much less than the P199.975 billion that the Department of Budget and Management reportedly gave the SAP (DBM press release, 4/18/20).
The survey found considerable variation, by area, in the receipts of a family. The average total ayuda per family was P11,024 in Metro Manila, P7,841 in Balance Luzon, P6,832 in Visayas, and P5,664 in Mindanao. Of course, the government can set standards; but is the Metro Manila cost of living double that of Mindanao?
Surely, the ayuda was appreciated by the 16 million family-recipients. But it did not prevent hunger from skyrocketing to 30.7 percent. If the government cannot afford to extend any more ayuda, it should already set the economy free.
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