Editorial: Social progress index drop

Editorial Cartoon by John Gilbert Manantan

LOOMING amid the frenzy of the midterm elections is the Philippines’ gross domestic product (GDP) growth, plunging to a four-year low at 5.6 percent in the first quarter of 2019, thus reported the Philippine Statistics Authority.

The drop confirms Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia’s fears that the reenacted budget would “sharply slow the pace of our economic growth.” The country’s first-quarter growth this year would have gone to 6.6 percent had government been operating under the 2019 fiscal program.

But that is for the GDP.

There is, however, a more alarming figure worth noticing as the administration lunges with a new mandate into its three-year stretch before the next elections.

The Social Index Imperative (SII) reported that the Philippines’ rank among countries had dropped from 68 in 2017 to 90 in 2018. The 2017 rank was among 128 countries. In 2018, there were 146.

While economists typically use GDP per capita to gauge a country’s standard of living, progressives had proposed new ways of assessing a country’s economic health. “GDP is a poor way of assessing the health of our economies and we urgently need to find a new measure,” said Nobel prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz and MIT professor Erik Brynjolfsson during the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland in 2016.

Thus, the “social progress index,” an economic health indicator that factors in the citizens’ quality of life and the environment. It has three categories: basic human needs, foundations of well-being and opportunity.

Under basic human needs are nutrition and basic medical care, water and sanitation, shelter and personal safety. Under foundations of well-being are access to basic knowledge, access to information and communications, health and wellness, environmental quality. Under the opportunity indicators are personal rights, personal freedom and choice, inclusiveness, access to advanced education.

In the SII’s 2018 report, the Philippines under-performed in quite a number of indicators under basic human needs: child stunting (impaired child growth and development), access to piped water, household air pollution attributable deaths, property crime rate, political killings and torture and perceived criminality.

Under foundations of well-being, the Philippines didn’t fare well in indicators such as access to quality education, health and wellness. Also marked “under-performed” were indicators such as “discrimination and violence against minorities,” “equality of political power by socio-economic position” and “equality of political power by social group.”

There is much to be said and done about these areas where the Philippines performed poorly. We hope the SII report will help inform the supposed vision of our new set of leaders.


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