I am for continuity

By: Fernando Fajardo May 05,2016 - 09:07 PM

Reflections from Paseo de Coro

There had never been a government in the Philippines since the postwar years that the economy grew by over 6 percent at a sustained rate what the present administration had achieved in just the first five years of its rule.

The last we had was during the decade after the last war which was fueled by reconstruction work and the push for industrialization via import substitution.

It did not last long because reconstruction would have been completed or reduced markedly after some years while an import substitution-based industrialization could not go on without recourse to export industrialization which we also failed to undertake after ten or so years of protecting our domestic import substituting industries.

They depended only on the small local market for their sales rather than the almost unlimited market outside that our neighbors were targeting when they went into export industrialization after just few years of import substitution.

Admittedly economic growth is not the best measure of development. In place of this, the United Nation’s Development Programme (UNDP) now uses what it calls the Human Development Index to measure development.

The index include, in addition to per capita income, the nation’s achievement in health, measured in terms of life expectancy, and education, measured in mean years of schooling. Looking at the HDI, we would find that the present administration has done well to improve our situation. From a maximum score of 1.0 our HDI was placed at 0.654 in 2010. This went up finally to 0.668 in 2014.

Still many are complaining. If true that this administration is doing well for the economy, why do we still see around so much joblessness and poverty, they would readily ask. Indeed, it’s true many people are still in poverty or unemployed. But let it not be said that the situation has not been improving.

During the ten years of the previous administration, unemployment hovered above 7 percent. This time it is just around 6 percent or less. Data on employment from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) gathered from its quarterly survey on labor force and employment would reveal a mark improvement in the unemployment rate in the country.

It shows, for example, that the 7.3 percent unemployment rate in January 2010 went down to only 6.6 in January 2015. In April 2010, the unemployment rate was 8.0 percent.

This also went down again to only 6.4 percent in the same month in 2015. The same can be said for the months of July and October where the unemployment rates went down from 6.9 percent and 7.1 percent in 2010 to only 6.5 percent and 5.6 percent in 2015, respectively.

On poverty incidence, the PSA released its latest report last March on the country’s official poverty statistics for the first semester of 2015 using income data from the first visit of the Family Income and Expenditure Survey (FIES) conducted in July 2015.

In its report the PSA says that poverty incidence among Filipinos in the first semester of 2015 was estimated at 26.3 percent. During the same period in 2012, poverty incidence among Filipinos was recorded much higher 27.9 percent.

On the other hand, subsistence incidence among Filipinos, or the proportion of Filipinos whose incomes fall below the food threshold, was estimated at 12.1 percent in the first semester of 2015.

In the first half of 2012, the subsistence incidence among Filipinos is at 13.4 percent 3. Subsistence incidence among Filipinos is often referred to as the proportion of Filipinos in extreme or subsistence poverty.

Of course, we can still see some of our neighbors being unemployed or in poverty which can make many of us to conclude that this administration has done nothing at all to improve the well-being of our people. It did. The only trouble is that many of us cannot fully apprehend or appreciate the concept of totals and percentages and their difference.

In total, yes, the number of poor people and the unemployed may have actually increased. But that is simply because we now have more people than during the time of the previous administration. In reality, however, the percentage of those in poverty and the unemployed are much lower now than before, which means that there has been some improvement in these two indicators from the time of the previous administration up to now.

Unfortunately, such inability of many of us to appreciate the difference in meaning between totals and percentages is easily used to the advantage by some politicians to condemn the present administration. Talk about demagogues, we have plenty around.

I have no more space to expound further on how the Philippine economy has improved in the last five years and a half of the present administration that I wish to continue in the next. Suffice it to say that our achievement in making our country emerge as a potential newly industrializing economy from one of a basket case in Asia is well recognized globally.

Such recognition allowed the Philippines to enjoy a great leap in its sovereign rating which makes our country more attractive to foreign investors.

Sadly, the world outside is also very apprehensive of what is to come if ever a different team will emerged as winners in the coming election which purport to change what is already doing well. Talk of shooting our own foot. We do have some foolish capacity to do that. I believe though in enlightenment.

And I’m happy to see that in the last few weeks or days the tide is changing. We may still see the good things being continued after all. Who knows?

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