The state of the people, 2013By Mahar Mangahas
Philippine Daily Inquirer
The honeymoon continues. As of June 28-30, the satisfaction of Filipino adults with the performance of President Noynoy Aquino was 76 percent, compared to dissatisfaction of only 12 percent, for a Very Good net rating of +64, as reported by SWS on Sona day (“Aquino ratings rise,” BusinessWorld, 7/22/2013).
P-Noy’s critics must be so frustrated, since no other president has done as well, for so long. In 1989, Cory Aquino scored at most +37. In 1995, Fidel Ramos was at most +26. Erap Estrada was already an ex-president by mid-2001, with his final rating in December 2000 at +9. Gloria Arroyo went negative by late 2004, and stayed there to the very end.
Moreover, those saying that P-Noy will be a successful president have grown to a new high of 40 percent in June 2013, from only 22 percent in June 2010 when he was newly elected. Those playing safe, saying it’s too early to tell, have shrunk from 68 percent in June 2010 to only 47 percent now. The balance of optimists over pessimists that he will ultimately succeed has grown from +12 to +27 in five surveys since 2010.
The people’s economic health. I think that P-Noy could have pulled off a big surprise if he had said, at the Sona, that high growth in the Gross Domestic Product is fine but it does not really count until it begins to be shared with the poor. And that the investment-grade ratings of the Philippines by foreign credit agencies are also fine but they do not really count until the government’s thereby-improved fiscal capacity enables it to expand its social services for the poor.
The GDP growth and the credit ratings are, obviously, only the means, and not the ends. Putting too much stress on the means has invited the detractors to insist that the ends be attained immediately.
But sharing with the poor takes some minimum time. An orchard owned by the poor takes several years to bear fruit. The children of the poor need to stay in public school for several years in order to finish their elementary grades, and for a few more years to finish their high school. From birth they should be eating adequately; from school age they should be attending classes diligently.
It is after the children acquire significantly more schooling than their parents, and thereby obtain decently-paying jobs, that the poverty of their families will begin to be permanently alleviated. This is precisely how the Pantawid or Conditional Cash Transfer program—the first government program to ever use a formal system for targeting individual poor families—will ultimately deliver on its promise of intergenerational reduction of poverty.
I think that the people at large understand how long it takes to reap the fruits of investment in human capital, on account of their high satisfaction with the administration’s economic management (see my “Continued contentment with governance,” Inquirer, 6/15/2013) and very high rates of personal optimism (see “Statistics of personal economic wellbeing,” Inquirer, 7/6/2012).
The ratings of satisfaction with the administration on fighting hunger and on fighting inflation have been either moderately positive or neutral during P-Noy’s term; previously they were always negative. (Inflation is the main factor driving poverty and hunger; it is not a sluggishness of economic growth.) The rating on helping the poor has always been good or very good under
P-Noy; previously it was good only rarely. The satisfaction with job-provision is also good; such ratings only started in P-Noy’s time.
To show that it is not relying on vague, trickle-down economics, the government should make its own explicit econometric model capable of projecting poverty and hunger at least annually, and survey these variables with the same frequency. In the meantime, the only available statistical means of rapidly monitoring poverty and hunger are the quarterly Social Weather Surveys.
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The CCT Impact Evaluation 2012 Report is posted on the Department of Social Welfare and Development website: http://www.dswd.gov.ph/download/Research/Philippines%20Conditional%20Cash%20Transfer%20Program,%20Impact%20Evaluation%202012.pdf. The data for the impact evaluation of the first wave of CCT can be downloaded, after registering to the Pantawid repository, at: http://pantawid.dswd.gov.ph/downloader/. Researchers are invited to do their own analysis of the survey data, which were collected by SWS for the DSWD. The samples and survey questionnaires were designed for comparison of households in the CCT program with so-called “control” households that were also CCT-eligible but not yet “CCT-treated” at the time.
Both supporters and critics of the administration are hampered by the infrequency of the government’s data. The last two data points in the official national poverty figures rely on the Family Income and Expenditure Surveys of 2009 and the first semester of 2012. Since the CCT started only in 2008, it would not yet show up in a general national sample of 2009.
There is also a so-called Annual Poverty Indicators Survey, but it is not really annual (the last was in 2011), and is not comparable to the FIES. The next official poverty report, referring to the second semester of 2012, is scheduled for release next month. Hopefully, there will be a new FIES in 2013 (advanced from the old schedule of 2015), with results to be out in 2014.
New official data on hunger will come from the National Nutrition Survey of 2013, with results due in 2014; the last NNS was in 2008.
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Contact SWS: or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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