Get real
Philippine Daily Inquirer, 25 July 2015


President Aquino is delivering his last State of the Nation Address on Monday. Does he get a passing mark or a failing mark for his (and his administration’s) performance? The opposition will naturally yell “FAIL!” and his administration will as fervently yell “PASS!” and everybody will have a great time (and media exposure) explaining their side. And the people will stand helplessly by, making their own judgments largely on the basis of what their favorite personality thinks, whether that personality be in politics or in the media.

And the President’s Sona, if it is like the previous ones, is not going to help them much, because of course it will be one-sided, among other things. I ask any parent, teacher, businessman, or professional: If someone gave you a status report which dwelt only on the pluses of a situation, how would you evaluate the report? Wouldn’t you rather have had a complete report that also gave you the “downside,” no matter how euphemistically couched (“challenges,” “risk assessment,” etc.)?

But from where would come the data, the information, that would give us all a better idea of what is going on? I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: StatDev.

StatDev is a statistical indicator system to monitor the achievement of the goals set in the Philippine Development Plan. It was created precisely to monitor and measure more effectively the economic progress and social change that we set ourselves to achieve.

Remember P-Noy’s “Social Contract with the Filipino People”? Remember its 16-point agenda? Well, that was all translated into the Philippine Development Plan (PDP) 2011-2016. This PDP is different from the plans of the previous administrations. Why? It is accompanied by a Results Matrices (RM) document that lists all the targets, and critical indicators, including how they fit in with each other and with P-Noy’s Social Contract.

For this effort, by the way, we have to thank Dondon Paderanga, who was P-Noy’s first Neda (National Economic and Development Authority) director general. Arsy Balisacan, who succeeded Dondon, is responsible for the PDP’s Midterm Update, which, among others, gave annual targets that would lead up to the 2016 final target, and for the Socioeconomic Report 2014, which assessed the progress of the PDP, and detailed the implications for 2015 and 2016. They did excellent jobs.

How many indicators are we talking about? StatDev 2013 (last year) listed 256 indicators ranging from GDP growth rates to the number of private armed groups, to the level of total suspended particulates in Saluysoy (I don’t know where that is).

Obviously, then, if P-Noy, or anybody else, really wants to know how we are doing in terms of the macroeconomy, or building up a competitive industry, services or agriculture and fisheries sector, or in terms of governance and the rule of law, or peace and security, or conservation, StatDev is his No. 1 stop. Nothing like being armed with facts.

Unfortunately, that’s not what happens. I have yet to hear of P-Noy, or any foe or friend, refer to the targets and accomplishments that StatDev monitors. Or use it as a basis for congratulating or firing bureaucrats for jobs well done or for failures. In fact, I don’t know whether anybody but the Neda and the Department of Budget and Management takes the PDP seriously at all. I know that the DBM does, because it always refers to aligning the government budget with PDP targets.

As a matter of fact, I can think of two measures of how seriously (or lightly) the PDP and its targets are taken by the P-Noy administration: 1) the number of indicators for which data have been collected by the data source agency versus the total number of indicators in the PDP; and 2) the speed with which agencies respond to the announcement of StatDev that data have not been submitted since 2011.

In 2013, StatDev reported 154 indicators which had current data, versus a total of 256 indicators in the PDP. Also, StatDev put out a list last year of 33 critical PDP-RM indicators, for which no data were available for 2011-2013. No response has been forthcoming.

On the other hand, there are positive signs, too (I hope the lesson is learned: One has to consider both the bad and the good). While StatDev last year had 154 indicators that had current data, with 72 showing good performance, 27 showing mediocre performance and 55 showing poor performance, this year StatDev reports on 199 indicators, 79 of which show good performance, 44 show mediocre, and 79 show poor. The performance refers to whether the indicators can reach the target level on time. Note that StatDev (which is in the Philippine Statistics Authority website) also indicates how the indicator is doing, with green smiley faces, red frowny faces, and yellow expressionless faces. How much more do you want?

Well, I know how much more: complete information. If they are good enough to be used as indicators of performance, they are good enough to be collected, in a regular and timely fashion.

Think of how useful these indicators are: to show the leading and lagging sectors, as a basis for decisions on whether an official should go (or not). And of course these also show how important transparency and accountability are to this administration, because anybody can access the data. It would be a pity if this information would not be used for the Sona.

But it can be used for judging this administration. And the Movement for Good Governance (of which I am the nominal chair; Nene Guevara runs the show) does. It is the only objective way of judging. The Scorecard for Year V of the administration is available at its website.