The report is the UN Human Development Report 2014, which was officially released last July 24 in Tokyo.
It must be faced by President Aquino and the Philippine Congress, because its contents are far-reaching in the unfolding story of our country, and are as wrenching as the Supreme Court’s decision on the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).
There’s no hiding from its message to us: “Of 187 member states of the UN, the Philippines has attained this year the rank and distinction of no. 117th in the world in terms of human development..”
An unpleasant reality
The unpleasant reality is this:
As we proudly unfurled this year our joining the club of 100 (countries with a population of 100 million or more—with our numbers firmly ranked as the 12th largest in the world), we coincidentally receded in the human development barometer to the company of countries with rankings in the stratosphere of futility and ineffectiveness.
Likewise, as we proudly proclaim to the world that our people are our greatest resource, and send some 10-12 million of them to the factories, offices and households of countries all over the world, we are faltering in the tasks that truly matter–caring for our people, educating them and securing their quality of life.
Why the UN report matters
First, a point of disclosure. I want to acknowledge that I owe to former president Fidel V. Ramos, the 12th president of our republic, my discovery of this startling distinction of our country.
Until I read his two-part series in the Manila Bulletin that discussed the report, I frankly had no inkling of its existence and its contents. The series ran in this sequence:
Part 1: “The comparative SONA: UN-Philippines”
(Manila Bulletin, August 2, 2014)
Part 2: “Harsh realities: Philippine decline in UN rankings”
(Manila Bulletin, August 10, 2014).
His series led me to a search online and in the city for a copy of and information about the UN report. I am happy to say that I have secured a copy of it, and have since read it with great interest.
The UN Human Development Report is a project and publication of the United Nations Development Program, dating back to 1990 when the project was started.
The 2014 report covers 185 member states of the United Nations (out of 193), plus Hong Kong and the Palestinian territories. Eight UN member states are not included because of lack of data.
The average Human development Index (HDI) of regions of the World and groups of countries are also included in the report for comparison.
The HDI is a comparative measure of life expectancy, literacy, education, standards of living, and quality of life for countries worldwide. It is a standard means of measuring well-being, especially child welfare. It is used to distinguish whether the country is a developed, a developing or an underdeveloped country, and also to measure the impact of economic policies on quality of life.
The 2014 Report calculates HDI values based on estimates for 2013.
Philippine HDI: How we compare
In the 214 report, the Philippines recorded an HDI of 0.660, which ranks it 117th overall.
This is how we compare to the highest and the lowest in the index:
1.Norway 0.944 HDI
2.Australia 0.933 HDI
186. Congo 0.338 HDI
187 Niger 0.337HDI
ASEAN countries Comparative HDI
The first Human Development Report in 1990 opened with the simply stated premise that has guided all subsequent Reports: “People are the real wealth of a nation.”
HDR Co-founder, 1998 Nobel laureate in economics Amartya Sen says: “Human development, as an approach, is concerned with what I take to be the basic development idea: namely, advancing the richness of human life, rather than the richness of the economy in which human beings live, which is only a part of it.”
Helen Clark, Administrator of the United Nations Development Program, avers that “the human development approach has profoundly affected an entire generation of policy-makers and development specialists around the world—including thousands within the UN system.”
Millennium development goals
The improvement of HDI in individual countries is often discussed and charted in conjunction with the achievement of the Millennium Developments goals – targets which were embraced by UN members during the Millennium Summit at the start of the 21st century.
The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are eight international development goals that were established at the Summit of the United Nations in 2000, following the adoption of the United Nations Millennium Declaration.
1.To eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
2.To achieve universal primary education
3.To promote gender equality and empower women
4.To reduce child mortality
5.To improve maternal health
6.To combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases
7.To ensure environmental sustainability
8.To develop a global partnership for development
As of 2013 progress towards the goals has been uneven. Some countries achieved many goals, while others were not on track to realize any.
In the case of the Philippines, and with the deadline of 2015 drawing near, the government has monitored and charted Philippine progress in the MDG through the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA).
Missing the MDG targets
President Ramos devotes Part 2 of his series to the subject of whether the country will meet its MDG targets.
And he quotes extensively from a report by Tony Lopez in BiznewsAsia.
Lopez contends that the signs point to the Philippines failing to meet its Millenium challenge. He reports as follows:
“According to the Philippine progress report on the MDG, the Philippines has already missed the following targets:
“Goal 1: Halve extreme poverty between 1990 and 2015. FAILED.
“Goal 2: Ensure universal primary education. All kids must be able to finish primary school. FAILED.
“Goal 3: Promote gender equality and empower women. FAILED.
“Goal 4: Reduce child mortality. FAILED.
“Goal 5: Reduce by three quarters, between 1990 and 2015, number of mothers dying while giving birth. FAILED.
“Goal 6: Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases. FAILED ON TUBERCULOSIS. PASSING ON MALARIA.
“Goal 7: Ensure environmental sustainability by integrating the principles of sustainable development into country policies and programs to reverse the loss of environmental resources. FAILED.
“Goal 8: Develop a global partnership for development. VERY GOOD.”
117: The scarlet number
Whether we use the MDG or the HDI as the key hole, President Ramos is surely correct when he says that “the Index should be seen as a country’s development scorecard for the year similar to a college student’s report card at school end – which is highly-prized, as proof of one’s competence, competitiveness, and capacity for higher achievements.”
This has to be the concern of both the executive and legislative branches of government, for they must work together in designing the policies and the programs that will enable the nation to progress significantly in human development.
It does no good for either branch to point to the other as the one responsible for No. “117.”
Like Hawthorne’s tale The Scarlet Letter, we Filipinos should adopt “117” as a scarlet number to remind us of how government, both the President and Congress, have failed the nation in their responsibilities to our people, particularly in the care and nurture of our young, who are the sum of our tomorrows.