FAITH, HOPE, CHARITY: Human development contests

BY IKE SEÑERES

THE Human Development Index (HDI) is a composite statistic devised by Pakistani economist Mahbub-ul Haq that was further improved by an international team of economists that included by Indian Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen.

It was eventually published by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) thus becoming the globally recognized devise to measure the performance of United Nations (UN) member countries in terms of three dimensions namely life expectancy, literacy and income.

Using the composite index, member countries are ranked according to their individual performance.

Later on, UNDP introduced the inequality-adjusted HDI version, now called IHDI, saying that it is the actual level of human development after accounting for inequality, further saying that the HDI should be viewed instead as an index of potential human development, if there was no inequality.

In other words, the UNDP is saying that the HDI could be the highest level of human development that is attainable by member countries, if there are no inequalities in those countries.

For some reason, the Philippines is not included in the HDI rankings published by the UNDP for many years now. As a footnote to these reports, it was explained that some countries were not included, mainly due to the unavailability of crucial data.

It is understandable that since the HDI is a composite statistic, the final rank could not be computed if the data for at least one dimension is not available.

No specific explanation could be found why the data about the Philippines is not available. I still have to find out whether the data needed is supposed to be officially “submitted” by a member country, or whether it is unofficially “gathered” by the UNDP independently.

I would think that the latter approach is more credible because the data would not be self-serving and there would be no conflicts of interest.

For some reason, however, the Philippines came out as number 76 in the IHDI rankings of 2013 (released in 2014) with a grade of 0.540.

It also came out as number 73 in the IHDI rankings of 2012 (released in 2013) with a grade of 0.524.

Earlier, it came out as number 75 in the IHDI rankings of 2011 (released in 2012) with a grade of 0.516. Curiously, the 2012 rankings indicate that the Philippines had an HDI grade of 0.654, but it does not say what the HDI ranking is.

Similarly, the 2011 rankings indicate that the Philippines had an HDI grade of 0.644, but again, it did not say what the HDI ranking is. Since the 2014 HDI report of the UNDP (based on 2013 estimates) showed only number 49 as the lowest ranking (it is Argentina with a grade of 0.808), we could assume that the HDI rank of the Philippines would be around the lower 70’s.

For comparison, the number 01 in HDI ranking is Norway with a grade of 0.944. Norway also came out as number 01 in the 2014 IHDI rankings (based on 2011 and 2013 estimates).

Since we are not denying that inequality exists in the Philippines, we could say for practical reasons that the IHDI statistic would be more applicable to the Philippines.

However, it would also be good for us to compute the HDI statistic and then compare it with the IHDI statistic, even if it is only for the purpose of getting an idea or a mental picture of the higher levels of human development that we could reach in this country if there is no inequality at all.

Since we know for a fact that our Constitution and our laws clearly prohibit inequality in our country, we should now examine our present reality in order to find out how and why inequality still exists, as we know that it does. Otherwise, we will never get a higher IHDI ranking, and our theoretical HDI ranking will just remain as a dream.

Regardless of whether we will base our rankings in IHDI or HDI, the bottom line is the same; we have to improve our life expectancy, literacy and income in real terms.

Regardless of whether the Philippine data used by UNDP was officially submitted or independently gathered, the bottom line should be the same, that the data should be collected from below, and not just estimated from the top.

In this context and for our own internal purposes, we should really be using data that is officially submitted by the local government units (LGUs), and not the data that is independently gathered by the national government.

This is for the same reasons that the data should not be self-serving, and there should be no conflicts of interest. For practical reasons and for better coordination, the data should be collated at the provincial level, meaning that all the LGUs should be officially submitting their actual data to their own provincial government.

For this purpose, we should just disregard the legal fiction that chartered cities are technically no longer under the provincial governments. For reporting purposes, we should just pursue the legal fiction that Metro Manila is just one big “province”, with several cities under it.

Since both the IHDI and the HDI statistics have already been tested and perfected at the global level, it could already be used to rank the performance of LGUs at the provincial level. If we go towards this direction, the focus of the evaluations would shift towards the Provincial Governors, who are the real executives in their own provinces, and not the District Representatives.

This is actually moot and academic, because the District Representatives are just supposed to be lawmakers, not executives. As a matter of fact, they should be making national laws, and not merely facilitating the allocation of national funding for their own districts.

If and when the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) will finally be abolished, the focus should now shift towards the proper utilization of the Internal Revenue Allocations (IRAs) for the LGUs, so that these would be used for the improvement of their own IHDI and HDI rankings.

It is just my own wishful thinking, but perhaps a reality television show presented as a contest among the provinces would be a good idea. The benchmark data could be the estimated IHDI and HDI rankings of the LGUs as of 2014.

The purpose of this contest would be to have a transparent way of seeing how these LGUs would improve their own governance programs so that their rankings would increase as of 2015, the first year of reckoning.

Since it will just be another year before the 2016 elections, it might just set the tone for the politics of performance to take center stage, instead of the usual politics of patronage.

Truth to tell, the local elections should by itself become a contest among those who profess to have good executive talents, and not those who possess strong political machineries. (Email bantaygobyerno- [email protected] or text +639083159262)/PN