The State of the Philippines?

A Boholano’s View by Jose “Pepe” Abueva

The Bohol Chronicle

January 20, 2013

How are we doing internally and compared to other countries? We check our condition using national data. But how do we compare with other countries on certain variables? Let’s see what we discovered using comparative studies.           

On Poverty. More Filipinos, 54 percent, view themselves as poor, mahirap, as 2012 ended according to Social Weather Stations in a report posted on January 13, 2013. This is  equivalent to 10.9 million households, claiming to be poor; or up seven points from the figure in August: also higher than the 52% average for 2012.

Worsened by natural disasters, self-rated food poverty was said by the SWS to have also worsened by nine points to 44% (8.9 million families) from 35% (7.2 million) in the previous survey. At any one point in time, hunger is always greater among the poor than among the non-poor. Many families still feel poor despite the economy’s having grown by a stronger-than-expected 6.5% growth as of September, as “almost 900,000 jobs were lost for the year ending October  2012.  Many families still feel poor despite the economy’s having grown by a stronger-than-expected 6.5% growth as of September, as “almost 900,000 jobs were lost for the year ending October 2012.

 Dismal performance in regard to U.N. Millennium DeMillenium Millennium Development Goals. “The Philippines’ performance in meeting its Millennium Development goals has been beenDevelopment Development goals Development Goals has remain dismal with barely three years into the deadline to achieve the objectives set by United Nations member-states, according to a UN report the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) and the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and Pacific (ESCAP).

Of the seven MDGs, the country got failing grades in four – eradicating extreme poverty, achieving universal primary education, reducing child mortality and sustaining maternal health. On the other hand, it received favorable scores in gender equality, reducing tuberculosis and HIV-AIDS prevalence and ensuring environmental sustainability.

The UN described as “regressing” and “no progress” the Philippines’ performance in education-related objectives, and “slow” in dealing with anti-poverty reduction, child mortality reduction, as well as maternal health problems.

But it cited the country for being an “early achiever” in gender equality, the campaign against TB and environmental issues like forest cover, protected areas, and reducing carbon dioxide emissions. The Philippines was “on track” in other environment-related issues like basic sanitation and use of safe drinking water, it also said.

The UN report said that nine other ASEAN member-states also scored regressing and no progress ratings for some of their MDG targets: Indonesia, HIV-AIDS and forest cover; Laos, HIV-AIDS and TB, and forest cover and carbon dioxide emissions; Cambodia, education and environment; Brunei Darussalam, environment; Malaysia, forest cover and carbon dioxide emissions; Vietnam, carbon dioxide emissions; Myanmar, forest cover and carbon dioxide emissions; Thailand, education, child mortality, forest cover and carbon dioxide emissions; and Singapore, maternal health. However, the report said, “several recent case studies clearly show the impact of disasters on several MDGs.”

Improvement on Economic Freedom and Governance.  The Philippines jumped 10 notches in The Heritage Foundation’s 2013 Index of Economic Freedom, from 107th to 97th place, the highest improvement among Southeast Asian nations. The Philippines ranked 17th of 41 countries in the Asia Pacific region while its overall score was slightly below the average, the Heritage Foundation said. However, countries that scored 59.9 down to 50  in the index, including the Philippines, were grouped under the category “mostly unfree.”

The index was topped by Hong Kong, followed by Singapore, Australia, New Zealand and Switzerland. Rounding out the top 10 were Canada, Chile, Mauritius, Denmark and the United States.

The Washington-based think tank said the Philippine economy had been on a “steady path of economic expansion,” growing at an average annual rate above 4.5 percent over the past five years, weathering the global economic slowdown with a “high degree of resilience.” It noted that the government had pursued legislative reforms “to enhance the entrepreneurial environment and develop a stronger private sector to generate broader-based job growth.” The Heritage Foundation, however, said that institutional challenges required “deeper commitment to reform.” While the perceived level of corruption had declined in years, more effective anticorruption measures needed to be institutionalized, it said.

“The inefficient judiciary remains susceptible to political interference and does not provide strong and transparent enforcement of the law, undermining prospects for long-term economic development,” it said. The Heritage Foundation also noted that the rule of law in the Philippines remained “uneven” and the legal framework was deficient in independence and efficiency. The “cumbersome” court system and loose regard for contracts continued to cause concern.

On Global Giving. The Philippines is one of the world’s most generous countries, ranking 17th among 146 in a global list for 2012. We are 47th worldwide in terms of giving to charity. We tied with Finland with a score of 45%, second in Southeast Asia, ranking behid Indonesia (52%) which was 7th worldwide. The report, prepared by the United Kingdom-registered Charities Aid Foundation, named Australia (60%) as the world’s most generous country, followed by Ireland (60%), Canada (58%), New Zealand (57%) and the United States (57%).

The report, prepared by the United Kingdom-registered Charities Aid Foundation, named Australia (60%) as the world’s most generous country, followed by Ireland (60%), Canada (58%), New Zealand (57%) and the United States (57%).

On Regional, Global Competitiveness, 2012. According to Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala, “global rankings are important for two reasons. First, they are a set of diagnostic tools which highlight the strengths we can build on, as well as the challenges that must be overcome, in order to become more globally competitive.  Second, investors pay close attention to the indicators and use the information to assess country standings across a variety of metrics.

“In Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index, we also moved up five positions to 129th compared to the prior year. However, we slipped by two positions to 136th in IFC’s Doing Business Report. Our top three immediate challenges, as defined by the surveys, are in the areas of Corruption, Inefficient Government Bureaucracy, and Inadequate Infrastructure. Our longer term challenges lie in the area of Education, Science and Technology, and Innovation.

On Happiness. Ana Marie Pamintuan, Philippine Star editor, reported on December 24, 2012: “Today we rank eighth behind mostly former Spanish colonies in terms of happiness, if this is defined as a positive attitude toward life. The Associated Press reported that Gallup Inc. asked about 1,000 people in each of 148 countries last year “if they were well-rested, had been treated with respect, smiled or laughed a lot, learned or did something interesting and felt feelings of enjoyment the previous day.”

The top 10 most positive were people in Panama, Paraguay, El Salvador, Venezuela, Trinidad and Tobago, Thailand, Guatemala, the Philippines, Ecuador and Costa Rica. The least positive were Singaporeans, who also emerged in another Gallup poll last month as the least emotional people in the world.  When it comes to health care, job security, government corruption, and political freedom, Pinoys don’t fare too well.

Hope for Real Change and Development. As I have said , our real hope for fundamental change in our politics and governance and rapid development rests in more transforming leaders and a growing middle class of independent, educated, informed, and activist members who will demand and work for fundamental change in our institutions and public policies; steady economic growth that is inclusive in its benefits; good education and improved science and technology to promote industry, agriculture, and services. All of which will steadily reduce the poverty and insecurity and dependency of our poor citizens on their rich and exploitative leaders and patrons. And transform our political culture and unite and build our nation.

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