Get real
Philippine Daily Inquirer, 31 August 2019


Has it crossed your mind, Reader, that there may be something wrong somewhere, when we are serenaded about how well the Philippines is performing on the one hand, and yet on the other hand, the real growth of the economy in the last two quarters, as reported by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), has been a mediocre (compared with the government’s own targets) 5.6 percent and 5.5 percent, respectively?

These growth rates show a definite slowing down of the economy. We are told that these low growth rates were last experienced by the economy some four years ago (one can confirm it by looking at the time series data on the national income accounts provided by the PSA).

Are we doing well or not? If you want to make up your mind based on hard evidence rather than press releases, false news, etc., the best place to go is to the PSA itself—its website, in the section called StatDev.

What is StatDev? It is short for Statistical Indicators on Philippine Development, aimed at “monitoring the economic and social development goals of the Philippine Development Plan” (PDP 2017-2022). And what is the PDP? According to President Duterte, in the foreword, its formulation was guided by his own 0-10-Point Socio-Economic Agenda: “Through this Plan we will empower the poor and the marginalized, push for improved transparency and accountability in governance, and fuel the economy…

“Reducing all forms of criminality and illegal drugs is also a priority as with enhancing peace and security… pursue infrastructure development… resolve to protect our environment and natural resources…”

You get the idea, Reader.

The results of that monitoring—using the same methodology as with the Millennium Development Goals—are also in the PSA website.

The PSA measured the pace of progress of the different indicators in the PDP and its accompanying Results Matrices. For each indicator, it is the ratio between the actual annual growth rate and the required annual growth rate of progress if the plan targets were to be met. If that ratio were more than 0.9, the likelihood of achieving the end-of-plan target was deemed to be “High,” and the icon was a green smiley face. If it were less than 0.5, that likelihood was deemed “Low,” with the icon a red frowning face. And if it were between 0.5 and 0.9, the likelihood was deemed “Medium,” with the icon a yellow expressionless face, meaning the target may or may not be achieved.

According to these calculations, the overall performance of the Philippines fell in the “medium” category. That’s what the StatDev opined, complete with infographics.

The 307 indicators in 2018 included 138 (44.95 percent) which had a high likelihood of attaining the end-of-plan targets, 42 (13.68 percent) which had a medium likelihood, and 127 (41.37 percent) low-likelihood indicators.

If the StatDev were an exam of the Philippines’ performance and we were strict, the Philippines would get a grade of 44.95 out of 100—a failing grade. If we include the medium likelihood indicators together with the high likelihood indicators, the grade would be 58.63 out of a possible 100. Still failing, by almost any metric.

But wait. What are the indicators which, by StatDev calculations, have a low likelihood of being achieved or are failing at? StatDev is very transparent about it. Let me give you examples:

Our Anti-Corruption efforts have not improved, as indicated by our percentile ranking in the WGI’s (World Governance Indicators) Control of Corruption Indicators. From our baseline of 42, the 2018 data shows 39. Our end-of-plan target is to be in the 50th percentile.

With respect to Justice, our percentile rankings in both the WGI and the World Justice Project’s Rule of Law Index have as well decreased instead of increasing. In the latter, we wanted to move from 26.55th percentile in 2015 to 29th percentile in 2022. Instead, our percentile ranking in 2018 went down to 12.39.

In Agriculture, 37 of the 66 indicators had a low likelihood of being achieved, including the increased contribution of agriculture to GDP, and the improved yields of practically all crops.

These aren’t my assessments, Reader. These are the hard, measurable assessments of the PSA. Look at the rest in the PSA website, Reader, and weep.