Better numbers this Christmas
The survey numbers this Christmas are better than they have been in a long time.
This year, over 70 percent expect a happy Christmas. The percentage of adult Filipinos expecting a happy Christmas rose to 71 in the Fourth Quarter 2014 Social Weather Survey, after having been in the 60s in 10 consecutive years, since 2004. The balance of 29 percent consists of 6 percent expecting their Christmas to be sad, and 23 percent saying, neutrally, that it will be neither happy nor sad.
SWS has been surveying this item in its fourth quarter round each year since 2002. The very first proportion expecting a happy Christmas was 82 percent that year, which has turned out to be the peak, to this day. The following year, 2003, it sagged a little, to 77 percent, the second-highest on record.
Who could have anticipated that the happy Christmas rate would fall to only 64 percent in 2004, and then be mired in the 60s for 10 years? In those years the sad percentage was between 7 and 11, and the neutral percentage was between 24 and 29. This year, 2014, is the first time for the happy rate to exceed 70 again.
Another “Good” rating for the President. Last Dec. 10, SWS reported, from the same survey, that President Noynoy Aquino’s net satisfaction rating had risen to +39 in the fourth quarter, from +34 in the third quarter. For the full year, his average is a Good +36.
Both of these ratings are Good (from +30 to +49), and one grade up from his “Moderate” +25 in the second quarter. That +25 is his one and only grade below Good in 18 quarterly ratings in his four and a half years in office.
From the time of Cory Aquino, all presidents, except Gloria Arroyo, had political honeymoons when they got Very Good, or at least Good, ratings. President Cory, who began her office in late February 1986, had her final grade of Good in August 1989, after three and a half years. President Fidel Ramos (1992/1998) got his final Good in March 1995, after a little less than three years. President Joseph Estrada (1998/2000) had his final Good in June 1999, only one year later. President Gloria Arroyo had a single Good rating in her nine years in office—in March 2004, a minimal +30, the highest score she ever got.
Good governance is not the province of the president, or of the executive branch, alone. In the weeks to come, SWS will be issuing many ratings, about the performance of specific officials, branches and agencies. It will put out its usual report card with the people’s ratings of government performance in both core subjects and special subjects.
Confidence in governmental ability to cope with disasters. The fourth quarter SWS survey found most people confident in the government’s ability to handle a typhoon as strong as Supertyphoon “Yolanda,” which struck the country in November 2013. Among the 1,800 survey respondents, there was 60 percent confidence in the national government, 58 percent confidence in the provincial government, 63 percent confidence in the city/municipal government, and 61 percent confidence in the barangay government. (The fourth quarter sample size was enlarged from our standard 1,200 by increasing the number of respondents in the typhoon-prone Visayas area.)
These confidence rates were as of the field interview period of Nov. 27 to Dec. 1, 2014. This turned out to be only a few days before Typhoon “Ruby,” the strongest typhoon of 2014, entered the Philippine area of responsibility on Dec. 4. Comparing the few dozen lives lost on account of Ruby to the thousands of lives lost due to Yolanda, the people’s confidence appears fully justified.
Economic deprivation has neither worsened nor eased. “Economic growth,” i.e. growth in the ratio of the Gross National Product to the population, is overly touted as an indicator of general economic wellbeing. Growth in GNP surely contributes strongly to the welfare of those in the corporate sector, especially in finance and banking—see how the banks compete with each other in making forecasts of the GNP growth rate—but contributes very weakly to the welfare of those who earn only by the sweat of their labor.
The meaningful way of keeping track of the people’s economic wellbeing is not by means of the GNP but by measures of economic deprivation, particularly poverty and hunger. The government has changed its measurement frequency from triennial to annual, but annual is still too slow, considering that quarterly is feasible. The SWS core indicators of self-rated poverty and self-reported suffering from hunger are operational means of measuring deprivations on a quarterly basis, or as frequently as GNP is being measured by the government.
The SWS fourth quarter report on self-rated poverty and food-poverty has already been sent to its media partner BusinessWorld (BW), which should release it by Monday, Dec. 29. The SWS fourth-quarter hunger report will follow in due course.
It would not be proper for me to scoop our own reports by mentioning economic numbers in this column, which is set to be published two days before BW puts out its own story about them. But I think it does no harm to assure my readers that knowledge of the new numbers would not spoil the spirit of the year-end holidays. Let us take the advice of Pope Francis to take bits of vacation and rest, even while preparing to welcome him to the Philippines.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all!
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