Bahrain needs more foreign workers and would hire Filipino workers to support its booming economy, according to a Macalañang press release on Wednesday that quoted the prime minister of the Middle Eastern kingdom.
“We have no problem with Filipinos. We should have more of them,” Bahrain Prime Minister Shaikh Khalifa Salman Al Khalifa said before the arrival of President Gloria Arroyo in the Arab country Wednesday night.
The Palace release, however, did not mention how many Filipino workers Bahrain was looking to hire.
Premier Shaikh Khalifa led the red-carpet welcome for the President at the Royal Terminal, where her plane arrived from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
“We really want more Filipinos, because they are all hard working,” Prime Minister Shaikh Khalifa said.
The Bahraini leader said President Arroyo’s visit here was “very important . . . [it’s] nice working with your President,” he said, adding, “Every time she visits Bahrain, things get moving faster.”
In her speech during the reception for the Filipino community in Bahrain held at the convention center of Gulf International Hotel, President Arroyo said the Bahraini prime minister told her that he appreciated the skills and professionalism of Filipino workers.
The premier also said Bahrain needs more salesladies for its country’s shopping malls and urged her to send more Filipina workers for that particular position.
Based on government figures, about 45,000 Filipinos work in Bahrain. And that number is growing, with Filipino professionals and skilled workers reportedly in high demand.
Saudi business mission
After visiting Saudi Arabia, President Arroyo said officials there are sending a high-level business mission to the Philippines in April to look for investment opportunities in agriculture sector.
Philippine Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap said Saudi Arabia wants to increase its investments in this country.
Yap, together with Labor Secretary Marianito Roque and Trade Secretary Peter Favila, accompanied the President on her two-day working visit to the Gulf Cooperation Council states. Yap added that Saudi Arabia’s ministers of commerce and agriculture would head the business mission to the Philippines.
The number of Filipinos living below the poverty line may increase by four million, independent think-tank Ibon Foundation said on Wednesday. “Using even the government’s unrealistically low poverty line, the number of poor Filipinos will likely increase by four million this year from 2006.”
Ibon research head Sonny Africa said the figure is based on a conservative estimate, since it merely assumes a continuation of trends in the 2003 to 2006 period.
“Gross domestic product [GDP] growth averaged 5.6 percent in 2004 to 2006, but the number of poor Filipinos according to the government’s official poverty line still increased by 3.8 million to 27.6 million in 2006,” he said.
GDP is the total cost of all goods and services produced in the country in a year.
“GDP growth will likely average even less than 5 percent in the 2007 to 2009 period, which means that poverty will possibly increase by at least four million poor Filipinos,” he explained.
Africa said growth dropped steeply from 7.2 percent GDP growth in 2007 to 4.6 percent in 2008 and would likely be less than 3 percent this year.
The real number of jobless Filipinos, he added, increased to 4.1 million in 2008 and would likely rise to some five million this year. The number of unemployed and underemployed Filipinos could then rise to at least 11 to 12 million in 2009.
Africa scoffed at the government for its so-called pump-priming in 2009 national government budget, saying it is actually equivalent to about 16 percent of GDP. And the appropriation is among the smallest in the last two-and-a-half decades. He also pointed out that the size of the budget has been more or less falling from a peak of 24 percent in 1990.
He said the “alternative livelihood” and “jobs placement” programs “seem oblivious to the severity of global and domestic economic problems and the absence of jobs for millions of displaced workers.”
“There is certainly a need for the government to undertake mitigating measures. Because of the huge number of poor Filipinos, the mitigation measures have to reach the greatest number in the quickest manner possible.”
Africa suggested that government measures should include restoring real per capita social services spending to at least 1997 levels through an additional P246 billion for social services and removing the value-added tax on food and oil products.
“Over and above these measures, there needs to be a radical change in economic policies to strengthen the domestic economy and create jobs and livelihoods for millions of Filipinos,” Africa added.
Ibon earlier predicted that the 10.7 unemployed and underemployed Filipinos in 2008 would continue to increase this year.
“While there is strong reason to believe that the Philippine economy will again go in these directions or even worse, as the current global economic financial turmoil is not just deeper and farther-reaching but will also last for much longer,” Ibon reported.
Earlier this week, Director General Ralph Recto of the National Economic and Development Authority said about 800,000 jobs are at risk in the Philippines this year, because of the global financial crisis.
— Angelo S. Samonte and Rommel C. Lontayao, Manila Times