Count people, not production
The recently-reported deceleration of gross national product (GNP) in the second quarter this year hardly matters to the progress of the Filipino people. That production grew instead of fell, and that it grew faster than the population, is good enough.
GNP is the money value of goods and services produced in a certain period, by Filipino nationals anywhere, i.e. including those based abroad. (To define gross domestic product, replace “by Filipino nationals” with “in Philippine territory”.)
From one quarter to another, there is very little connection between the value of production per Filipino, to the value of what the typical Filipino enjoys out of it. Despite steady growth in GNP per person in the past three decades, it is only since 2015 that more Filipinos have gotten better off—call them Gainers—than those that got worse off—call them Losers—from the year before.
The June 2019 SWS survey of adults found 36 percent as Gainers and 22 percent as Losers, or a Net Gainers score of +13 (correctly rounded). The other 42 percent said their quality of life (uri ng pamumuhay) was the same as 12 months before.
A positive Net Gainers score is rare: It has happened in only 15 percent of 132 surveys from 1983 to the present (see “Second Quarter 2019 Social Weather Survey: Net Gainers down but still ‘Very High’; Net Personal Optimism and Net Economic Optimism down but still ‘Excellent,’” www.sws.org.ph, 7/25/19).
In April 1983, or before the assassination of Ninoy Aquino, Net Gainers was -3, i.e. the odds of gaining versus losing were about 50/50. But by April 1984, Net Gainers had sunk to -39, and by July 1985 was even deeper, at -47.
In May 1986, under Cory Aquino, the score recovered to a favorable +2. It dipped a little to -9 in October 1986. It bounced up to a healthy double-digit +11 in March 1987, which proved to be its last positive number for the next 19 years.
From 1989 to 2010, the Net Gainers score was constantly double-digit negative. It exploded to the all-time worst -50 (62 percent Losers, 12 percent Gainers) in June 2008. Only 6 times (4 under Ramos, 2 under Arroyo) was it a benign single-digit negative.
But the chances for Filipinos to get ahead radically improved during Aquino III. Twelve of his first 18 quarters had single-digit Net Gainer scores, with the poorest double-digit at only -13. Then, starting 2015Q1, the national scores all turned positive, and reached +9 by 2016Q2.
The domination of Gainers over Losers did not start at the same time everywhere. As early as 2014Q4, Gainers were already dominant in Luzon outside NCR. NCR followed in 2015Q1, and together with Balance Luzon turned the national score around to +6. Visayas was next, with +5 in 2016Q1. Mindanao was last, with +10 in 2016Q2.
After mid-2016, 11 of the 12 quarterly Net Gainer scores have been positive. It reached a high +23 in December 2017, but slumped to +5 in June 2018 and -2 in September 2018. Fortunately, it turned double-digit again in December 2018.
Area-wise, the September 2018 scores were +3 in Balance Luzon, zero in both Visayas and Mindanao, and -4 in NCR. It was the low point of economic progress in the last three years, counted in terms of people. I doubt that empirical analysis will blame it on inadequate GNP growth.
The chances of gaining, rather than losing, have been positive for college grads since 2011, for high school grads since 2015, for elementary grads since 2016, and for elementary dropouts only since 2017. With human capital and other resources so unevenly distributed, so are the people’s chances for progress from the past.
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