Friday, February 25, 2011

Gawad Kalinga Will Not Solve Poverty

February 25, 2011

Gawad Kalinga is one of the mainstream movements providing housing and livelihood for the poverty stricken communities in our country. That which started from a project of Couples for Christ, it is now a multi-sectoral partnership which now boasts of hundreds of thousands of volunteers, 900 communities housing 60 to 100 families each community. The GK projects are examples of the synergistic effect of governance. That is, the government, the business sector and the civil society working together.

The success of GK relies on the scientific management of resources. Materials are duly computed and maximized even to the last can of paint. Most of all, the participation and the cooperation of volunteers, the human resource, made the delivery of the service successful. To subordinate personal interest to the interest of others and to serve the people is at the core of the success of each project. Now, together with the National Housing Authority under Vice-President Jejomar Binay, the Gawad Kalinga Model will be applied under the helm of the government.

No contest that the theory of governance as a partnership of government, business sector and the civil society is exemplified by the Gawad Kalinga communities and projects.

Gawad Kalinga boasts of “eradicating” poverty and claims it as a “solution” to poverty. As much as I would want to think that it does indeed eradicate poverty, I do not agree and I think VP Binay is more clear on that. Poverty is a result of a systemic problem of society. It is not a problem separate from the mode of production of the country. It is actually the picture of the failure of our present mode of production in providing for the needs of the majority. The Vice-President stated that he does not necessarily believe that this will solve the poverty problem but will lessen the burden presented by poverty. Gawad Kalinga (more of the volunteers than the recipients) tend to have an insulated mode of thinking that GK recipients will not be affected by the problems of the system as a whole. There must be recognition that livelihood training does not automatically translate to jobs nor income.

A criticism of the Gawad Kalinga Model is that the government has the tendency to use this type of projects to beg off from its actual responsibility. One must recognize that the Gawad Kalinga projects are limited and it cannot actually replace the resources of the government to deliver its services. (In one debate with a classmate, he uses GK to justify the government’s minimal involvement. “Nandiyan naman ang GK kung wala talaga maitulong ang gobyerno”) Stated above, theoretically, GK is a multisectoral partnership. It must be a social commentary that everyone must be an actor and likewise a stakeholder in each project. Unfortunately, some believe that it actually replaces the role and responsibility of the government to its people. However, expecting the partnership of the NHA and GK, it will hopefully increase the role of the government in the model.

The bourgeois thinking propagates within and outside its ranks especially among the middle class is that if the recipients of the houses continue to be poor after the project, then it is the fault of the recipient because they are indolent. I would like to take off from the belief of Gawad Kalinga that to change the individual, you must change the community; to change the community, we must change the society. The well off are critical of how the urban poor live in poverty, but are we critical of why these people are poor and why there is poverty in the first place? Housing is just one of the problems of the urban poor and is not the root cause of why they are poor.


This is a short reaction I wrote for a class last semester. It was after a dialogue with Vice President Jejomar Binay and Gawad Kalinga Founder Tony Meloto at the National College of Public Administration and Governance, University of the Philippines Diliman on August 10, 2010.

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