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FLEA MARKET OF IDEAS

5 signs PH has become prosperous

A country’s march to prosperity is generally measured by the growth of its gross domestic product (GDP) and per capita income. Every Philippine president is praised or criticized depending on how these indicators of progress performed during his or her term in office.

GDP is the total value of all goods and services produced yearly within a country. Per capita income is the average income earned per person, and it is measured by dividing GDP by a country’s total population.

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The criticism against the use of these measures of prosperity is that they add together the outrageous income of the megarich and the meager earnings of the poor, then hypothetically distribute the overflowing wealth of the affluent to the impoverished multitude, in order to come up with a fictional average income for each member of the 100-million Filipino population. With 40 Filipino families controlling 76 percent of the Philippines’ GDP, and 50 percent of the population rating themselves poor, these supposed measurements of progress present a false image of prosperity for the greater majority of Filipinos.

By my own reckoning, there are five factors which will show that we have become prosperous as a nation. These are:

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We have constructed a mass transportation system, patronized by rich and poor alike, that allows Filipinos to efficiently travel nationwide. Train systems traverse the heavily populated islands. The major cities have interconnected networks of trains, boats, and buses, in addition to dedicated walkways and bike paths, that link urban centers with the suburbs. As a saying goes: “A developed country is not a place where the poor have cars. It’s where the rich use public transportation.”

We have in place an educational system that grants children, born of poor families or irresponsible parents, a “level playing field” by providing them public university education for free. State universities in the provinces have attained excellent academic standards that dissuade investments in private colleges as profitable businesses.

We have a healthcare system that provides free and adequate medical assistance to indigents as a general rule and not as an exception determined by patronage politics. Medicines are no longer sold at brazenly exorbitant prices compared to price levels in the countries where they are produced.

We have developed a culture where people would readily mobilize massive rallies and class-action court petitions denouncing government corruption and private business irregularities. A people imbued with a spirit of activism will shape up a corrupt government and discipline abusive private companies. The Philippines will attain success in this factor when politicians exposed in corruption scandals voluntarily resign out of shame, while private businesses involved in unlawful practices are penalized with heavy fines and criminal prosecution.

The fifth factor in my list may be perceived as a mere lighthearted dig. To me, however, it is the most visible manifestation showing that Filipinos have achieved respectable prosperity, attained an edifying level of education, and developed a strong sense of community. By this sole and exalting factor alone, First World countries are differentiated from Third World countries: We have clean public and private toilets.

Our leaders’ focus on concepts like GDP and per capita income as guiding lights in our journey toward prosperity has brought us to where we are now: a land where the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer.

The five factors do not specifically aim to create material wealth for Filipinos, but their realization will result in bestowing upon us the end benefits that wealth seeks to attain in the final analysis.

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Our government and our people should refocus attention and energies on achieving those five aims. If we succeed in doing so, we may yet realize our aspiration to become a truly prosperous nation.

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TAGS: Flea Market of Ideas, Gross Domestic Product, Inquirer Opinion, Joel Ruiz Butuyan, Philippine economy
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