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Social Climate

Look through the people’s eyes

05:06 AM December 23, 2017

Social surveys of wellbeing rely on what the people see. They grant that respondents are capable of evaluating their personal situation at present, comparing it with the past, and forming expectations of the future.

Responses uncoerced and honest must be accepted without dispute. All individual views should be respected, varied as they may be. The object of wellbeing research is to discover the social consensus, as well as divergences within it, rather than to validate any preconceptions.

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Do rely on counts of gainers versus losers. Last week, I advocated head counts of gainers versus losers, in personal quality of life (QOL), as a simple and reliable indicator of national progress.

In September 2017, two out of every five individuals had gotten better off from the year before, only one had gotten worse off, and the remaining two stayed put (“Gainers have led since 2015,” Opinion, 12/16/17). This is definitely progress, even though gaining, rather than losing, is directly related to one’s original status.

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Do rely on self-assessed poverty, hunger, and joblessness. Like gainers/losers in QOL, the numbers of poor households, hungry households, and jobless adults have also been surveyed quarterly by Social Weather Stations for many years.

Such economic suffering, as self-defined by the survey respondents, are valid indicators of the people’s economic wellbeing. All the SWS economic indicators will be updated and reported soon, now that the December 2017 Social Weather Survey has been completed.

Ignore foreign exchange rates and stock market price indexes (unless you’re a player). An increase in the peso price of a US dollar is bad news for importers but good news for exporters and overseas workers. Increases in prices of stocks listed in the stock exchange are good for sellers but bad for buyers.

There are some Filipinos on both sides of these markets. The great majority of Filipinos are not involved in them at all. The prices in these markets are practically irrelevant to the people’s economic wellbeing.

Ignore the country’s credit rating in finance (unless you’re an international investor). This is the rating of the quality of the Philippine government, or one of its institutions, as a borrower. It matters to the very few whose business is to decide how much to lend to the Philippines versus other countries in the world.

Of course, the credit rating affects our government’s borrowing program. But the Filipino people in general are not, and need not, be troubled about it.

Ignore the Gross National Product (GNP). The GNP is an estimate of the aggregate money value of goods and services produced. It is correlated with the gross volume of business, and so businesspeople watch its growth so keenly. But the ratio of GNP to the population is poorly related to the economic wellbeing of the average Filipino.

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In particular, some portions of GNP, such as the costs of the military, police, and the government bureaucracy, though necessary for public welfare, are not directly beneficial to people. Such instruments are regrettable expenditures, and, thus, adding their value to the beneficial goods that they enabled is double-counting.

The United Nations once proposed Net Beneficial Product (NBP) as an alternative concept that would exclude instrumental items. NBP was only 75 percent of GNP in 1972, according to social indicators researchers of the Development Academy of the Philippines (“Measuring Philippine Development,” DAP, 1976).

Contact [email protected] Merry Christmas to one and all!

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