Business World, 3 July 2013


Big gains have been made in at least half of the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), a United Nations report said. The MDGs were adopted upon by UN member-countries as a result of the UN Millennium Summit in 2000. The agreement seeks to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, achieve universal primary education, promote gender equality and empower women, reduce child mortality, improve maternal health, combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases, ensure environmental sustainability and develop a global partnership for development.

Where does the Philippines stand vis-a-vis the rest of the world?

The UN report said the proportion of people living on extreme poverty — less than $1.25 a day — was halved in 2010, five years before the deadline.

On the first target (halve, between 1990s and 2015, the proportion of people whose income is less than one dollar a day), the Philippines has poor likelihood of meeting it. In 1991, the national poverty threshold was 33.1. The target is 16.6 by 2015. The poverty rate was 26.5 in 2009 and it was estimated at 27.9 in the first half of 2012.

The Philippines’ ASEAN-5 peers (Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam) have met this target a few years back.

The MDGs target that by 2015, children everywhere, boys and girls alike, will be able to complete a full course of primary schooling. The UN report said more needs to be done to achieve universal primary education.

There is a high probability that the Philippines would not meet this goal. The indicator is that the net enrollment ratio in primary education will be 100.0 by 2015, from 84.6 in 1990. In 2011, it was 91.21.

The third target is to eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education preferably by 2005 and to all levels of education no later than 2015.

The UN report said that more needs to be done to promote gender equality. The Philippines is ahead of its global peers. The first indicator is the ratio of girls to boys in primary education. For the Philippines the target is 1.0 in 2015. It has been at 1.0 since 1996 and it slightly improved to 1.1 in 2011.

The fourth MDG target is to reduce by two-thirds, between 1990 and 2015, the under-five mortality rate. The UN report indicated big gains in reducing child mortality. The Philippines has made great progress here too. For the Philippines, the target under-five mortality rate is 26.7 in 2015, from 80.0 in 1990. As of 2011, it was 30. Hence, there is a strong probability of that the Philippines will meet this target by 2015.

The fifth MDG target is to reduce by three-quarters, between 1990 and 2015, the maternal maternity ratio. According to the UN report, maternal mortality has declined by nearly half, from 400 deaths per 100,000 live births to 210, between 1990 and 2010. But meeting the MDG target will require accelerated interventions and stronger political backing for women and children.

For the Philippines, the goal is to reduce maternal maternity ratio to 30.3-51.8 by 2015 from 121-207 in 1990. In 2010 it was estimated to be between 95-163. The Philippines will surely fail to meet this target. The Reproduction Health Law might have a strong, long-term positive effect on this indicator. Sadly, the RH law is stuck in the Supreme Court.

The sixth MDG target is to have halted by 2015 and begun to reverse the incidence of malaria and other major diseases. The UN report said that big gains have been made in health, after mortality rates from malaria fell by more than 25% globally. New human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infections worldwide are said to be declining steadily, although some 2.5 million are newly infected each year.

The Philippines’ performance is mixed. It has made some progress in reducing the incidence and death associated with malaria. However, the prevalence associated with tuberculosis (TB), and the deaths association with TB remained high.

The seventh MDG target is to integrate the principle of sustainable development into country policies and programs to reverse the loss of environmental resources. Big gains have been made in ensuring environmental sustainability, the UN report said.

For the Philippines, the limited data suggest some progress but the improvements are marginal.

The MDG’s eighth target is to develop a global partnership for development. The global financial crisis and euro zone turmoil continue to take a toll on official development assistance, the UN report said.

For the Philippines, the indicators suggest some progress. On the ability to deal comprehensively with the debt problems of developing countries through national and international measures in order to make debt sustainable in the long-term, the Philippines has achieved major progress. Its debt service as a percentage of exports of goods and services has declined from 27.2 in 1990 to 11.2 in 2010.

On the ability to make available the benefits of new technologies, especially information and communications, there’s been a quantum leap in the number of telephone lines subscribers per 100 population and the cellular phone subscribers per 100 population.


Progress towards the eight MDGs has been uneven not only among regions and countries, but also between population groups within countries,” the UN report said.

Policymakers should not fall into the trap of counting the goals or targets met rather than meeting the more important ones.

Some MDGs and targets deserve more weight than others. For some countries (Afghanistan and Iraq, for example), gender equality carry more weight, but for the Philippines, it is less of a problem.

In most if not all countries, poverty and hunger reduction, unemployment, child mortality, maternal mortality are given more weight by society and policymakers.

The odds are high that the Philippines will fail to meet the more important MDG goals and targets, such as: lower proportion of population below national poverty threshold, 100.0 completion rate of pupils starting grade 1 who reach grade 6, 100.0 percent primary completion rate, 100.0 percent literacy rate of 15 to 24 years old, lower maternal mortality rate, and 100.0 percent contraceptive prevalence rate. In the addition, the incidence of TB has reemerged.