• From 70th to 117th: Our saga of decline


    This is a follow-up to my previous column (“Philippines must face squarely United Nations report”, Times, August 12), which drew significant reaction.

    In the rush to meet my deadline, I omitted discussion of some significant and vital information. I want to fill these gaps with today’s column.

    Most of those who wrote and called expressed alarm, disappointment and indignation about the huge decline of Philippine human development.

    Alas, even more will be alarmed, disappointed and indignant when I report today that in 2001, at the start of the new century, we were No.70 in the HDI rankings.

    And that we started our steep descent during the first three years of BS Aquino’s presidency.

    This conclusion leaps at us when we look at key data researched and supplied by President Ramos in his series.

    He charted year by year the country’s decline in the human development rankings.

    hdi20140814As FVR commented: “That’s a drop of 47 slots in HDI rankings and a decline of 19.4%

    In comparative percentiles in a period of just 12 years.

    Sayang (too bad).”

    In 2001, the year President Joseph Estrada was toppled by EDSA2, the country had an HDI ranking of #70 out of 162 countries rated. The Erap years,following on the heels of FVR’s Philippines 2000 program, were not the disaster that many might expect.

    In 2010, the year President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo left office, we had a ranking of #97 out of 169 countries.

    But then followed a major slide down the slope.

    In 2011, after just one year of PNoy and his Daang Matuwid program, we fell 15 rungs in the rankings to No. 112.

    Underspending doubtless had something to do with it.

    In 2012, we slipped another two rungs.

    In 21013- 2014, we dropped another three rungs.

    According to economists and social scientists, such changes cost lives, human misery, and jobs.

    Vulnerabilities and resilience
    The 2014 UN report is of practical value to Filipino policy makers and program planners and implementors because of its many insights into coping with disasters and crises – especially in light of our experience with Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda and several typhoons annually.

    The report bears the subtitle:

    “Sustaining Human Progress: Reducing Vulnerabilities and Building Resilience.”

    As the introduction explains:

    “Overall global trends are positive and progress is continuing. Yet, lives are being lost, and livelihoods and development undermined, by natural or human-induced disasters and crises.

    However, these setbacks are not inevitable.

    While every society is vulnerable to risk, some suffer far less harm and recover more quickly than others when adversity strikes. This Report asks why that is and, for the first time in a global HDR, considers vulnerability and resilience through a human development lens.”

    Human vulnerability denotes the prospect of eroding human development achievements and their sustainability. A person (or community or country) is vulnerable when there is a high risk of future deterioration in circumstances and achievements.

    How far shocks translate into reduced human development depends on people’s ability to cope with shocks as well as on the assistance that they may receive. People’s ability to cope and adjust is called human resilience.

    Policies states should consider or adopt
    In line with the human development paradigm, the Report recommends certain policies that states should seriously consider or adopt.

    Among these policies are:

    1. Strong universal social protection not only improves individual resilience—it can also bolster the resilience of the economy as a whole.

    Nearly all countries at any stage of development can provide a basic floor of social protection. They can progressively expand to higher levels of social protection as fiscal space allows. A lower income country might start with basic education and health care and later expand to offer cash transfers or basic labor protection.

    2. Full employment should be a policy goal for societies at all levels of development. When employment is either unattainable or with very low rewards, it is a major source of vulnerability with lasting repercussions for individuals and their families and communities. Full employment is smart, effective social policy.

    3. The effects of crises, when they occur, can be lessened through preparedness and recovery efforts that can also leave societies more resilient. Building capacities in preparedness and recovery can enable communities to withstand shocks with less loss of life and resources and can support faster recoveries.

    4. A global effort is needed to ensure that globalization advances and protects human development—national measures are more easily enacted when global commitments are in place and global support is available. An international consensus on universal social protection would open national policy space for better services for all people, reducing the risk of a global “race to the bottom.”

    The report concludes with words touching on the related subject of the Millennium Development Goals:

    “Progress takes work. Many of the Millennium Development Goals are likely to be met at the national level by 2015, but success is not automatic, and the gains are not necessarily permanent.”

    Drivers of development
    In his two-part series, President Ramos underscores how the Philippines can learn from many developing countries that have made substantial progress over the past two decades.

    He wrote: “Several high achievers have not only boosted national income, but also show better than average performance on social indicators, principally health, education, and jobs/livelihood. Among these countries, four notable common drivers of development have been highlighted by the United Nations.”

    These drivers are:

    Driver 1: A proactive developmental state. A strong, proactive, and responsible State develops policies for both public and private sectors based on long-term vision/leadership, shared norms/values, and rules/institutions that build trust and cohesion.

    Achieving enduring transformation requires consistent and balanced development. Leaders need to be people-centered, promoting opportunities while protecting people against downside risks like corruption and natural calamities.

    Driver 2: Tapping of global markets. An important role in advancing progress is played by global markets. Even more important are the terms of engagement with these markets.

    Without investment in people, returns from global markets are likely to be limited. Success is more likely to be the result not of sudden openings but of gradual and sequenced integration with the world economy.

    Driver 3: Determined social policy innovation. Few countries have sustained rapid growth without impressive levels of public investment – not just in material infrastructure, but especially in health and education.

    Growth has been more effective at reducing poverty in countries with low income inequality than in countries with high income inequality (like the Philippines).

    Promoting equality, particularly among different geographic, religious, ethnic, and economic sectors reduces social conflict.

    Driver 4: Policy of inclusiveness. National policy has to promote inclusion – ensuring nondiscrimination and equal treatment is critical for political and social stability. It must hold the leadership accountable at all levels.

    Education, healthcare, legal protection/empowerment and social organization all enable poor people to benefit from growth. Sectoral balance –paying priority attention to the rural sector – and the nature/pace of employment expansion are critical.

    Think of the 2014 UN report as a handbook for nations in navigating the challenges to human development, and in coping with hazards and shocks arising from disasters, natural, economic, and political.

    The Philippines needs this handbook.



    Please follow our commenting guidelines.


    1. When the govt of abnoy lends $1B to the IMF just to look good but in the same time have to borrow more just to make ends meet is crazy.What on earth have we done to deserve such a stupid president!!!

    2. Although the refinement of these figures shows a less dramatic picture, the UN report sets out (by implication)n a very clear agenda for the Philippines. The problem is not that our political leaders do not understand this. It is that a wealthly elite and a large and comfortable middle class have no interest in creating a more equal and just society. Their comfortable low cost lifestyle benefits directly from a large class of poor and disenfranchised people who sell their labour for a pittance.

    3. Maganda-ganda pa nga ang HDI National. Pag na-localize ito (80 provinces, 35 cities and 1427 municipalities), matindi. Kaya ang MDGs, ang possibility of attaining such is practically nil.
      Ang societal goal ng bansa na nakasulat sa Philippine Development Plan up 2016 ay “poverty reduction and inclusive economic growth”. In Malaysia, it is “high income”.
      Talking about social protection, ewan ko kung malinaw ito sa mga nasa tungkulin. Social protection, in principle, is biased in favor of the marginal, disadvantaged and vulnerable. Examples of such protection are universal health care (sa atin, Philhealth na ginagawa namang political capital), scholarsip for the youth (political strategy rin), emergency employment (meron ba? Meron tayo, CCT)

      Transformation in the sense of social, economic, environmental and political? Maganda yan. Pero hindi yan ang collective and integrated focus ng administration na ito.

      Siguro, pag bumaba na ang public apathy threshold, where citizens are informed and are too willing to demand performance and accountability from those who hold positions of responsibility, baka sakali, gaganda na ang condition (State of Development) ng bansa.

    4. Our HDI has gone up from 0.566 to 0.666, so it is unfair to imply that we have gone backwards, and by 47 “places.” (Unfair to the many people who have worked very hard to improve things.)

      But is it true that 1/3rd of the UN has ‘overtaken’ us? No, because 35 of those ahead of us in the 2013 list were not listed at all in 1980.

      However, there is a real story behind the oversimplification. We have overtaken only South Africa while being passed by the following countries, which include a one-party state, corrupt patronage-riddled democracies, military regimes, ex-regimes, ex-colonies, ex-banana republics, even a theocracy:
      (name, 1980HDI–>2013HDI)
      INDONESIA 0.471–>0.684
      THAILAND 0.503–>0.722
      CHINA 0.423–>0.719
      BRAZIL 0.545–>0.744
      TURKEY 0.496–>0.759
      IRAN 0.490–>0.749
      EGYPT 0.452–>0.682

      The following countries were NOT listed in 1980 when we were ranked #70:

    5. So we are missing all of the policies and the drivers to develop. The Philippines can only get a good rating from the international set when he tells half-truths.

    6. You mentioned “under spending” as a reason for low HDI. Remember the Philippines lost BILLIONS TO PLUNDERS ABETTED AND ENABLED BY PNOY. MATUWID NA DAAN SA BULSA NG PLUNDERERS.

    7. In short, the present regime is all along promoting the welfare of the oligarchs who are now controlling our prime industries such as power, electricity, water, transportation, communication, construction, realty and in the near future our hospitals. These oligarchs are killing our poor consumers by a policy of maximum profits resulting to high costs of their products or services. On the other hand, the number of OFWs keeps on increasing daily due to the utter neglect by our government by not providing job opportunities stemmed from lack of gov subsidies or assistance to farmers/ poor agri related infrastructures and lack of gov support to local manufacturing industries.

    8. The beloved President Aquino does not care about ratings. For him, the Philippines is doing well, thanks to the figures given by his assistants, surely taken from the air. Mr. Aquino does not understand and does not give a s*** about the people and the country. Too bad that there still a lot of people who think that he is still their president.