Observations, surveys, changes in the past 12 months

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BY MANNY VILLAR
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TWO THINGS come to mind when I look back at the past 12 months, specifically the first year in office of President Rodrigo R. Duterte.

First, the proof of how people think of him shows not only on his public approval ratings, but on the changes they see in their own lives.

Second, the unorthodox chief executive is likely to break the so-called post-election jinx, or the slowdown in economic growth following an election year.

On my first observation, I cite the recent surveys conducted by independent polling firm Social Weather Stations (SWS).

The Second Quarter 2017 Social Weather Survey, which was conducted on June 23-26, 2017, found 9.5 percent or an estimated 2.2 million families experiencing involuntary hunger at least once in the past three months.

This is 2.4 points below the 11.9 percent (estimated at 2.7 million families) quarterly hunger rate in March 2017, and is the lowest figure recorded since the 7.4 percent recorded 13 years ago, in March 2004.

In another survey, the SWS found that self-rated poverty in the second quarter of 2017 fell for the first time in three quarters. According to the Second Quarter 2017 Social Weather Survey, which was conducted on June 23-26, 2017, 44 percent of respondents or an estimated 10.1 million families consider themselves poor, six points below the 50 percent or an estimated 11.5 million in March 2017.That means 1.4 million families who no longer consider themselves poor during the second quarter of this year.

The SWS notes that the decline in self-rated poverty in the three months ending June broke two successive quarters of increases. The polling firm recalls that when President Duterte assumed the presidency in June 2016, self-rated poverty was 45 percent. It fell to 42 percent by the end of the third quarter, then rose for two consecutive quarters – 44 percent by the end of the fourth quarter and 50 percent in the first quarter of this year.

Based on the results of the two surveys, it’s no wonder that the President continues to receive high satisfaction ratings. According to the Second Quarter 2017 SWS Survey, President Duterte received a new personal record-high rating of “very good” at +66 points.

The survey, conducted from June 23 to 26, 2017, found 78 percent of adult Filipinos satisfied, 10 percent undecided, and 12 percent dissatisfied with President Duterte’s performance.

Compared to March 2017, gross satisfaction with President Duterte rose by 3 points from 75 percent, gross undecided fell by 2 points from 12%, and gross dissatisfaction stayed at 12%.

The President’s latest net satisfaction rating is 3 points above the very good” +63 he received in December 2016 and March 2017, and is a new personal record-high, surpassing the previous personal record of +64 recorded in September 2016.

On my second observation, the Philippine economy grew by 7.3 percent in terms of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2010, when the country held general elections, which saw former President Benigno S. Aquino III winning the presidency.  In 2011, his first full-year in office, GDP growth plunged to 3.7 percent.

The economy also showed the same trend during former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s first elective term (she first became chief executive when she assumed the remainder of the term of President Joseph Estrada in 2001).

In 2004, when Arroyo won the presidential election, the economy grew by 6.2 percent. In the following year, GDP growth slowed down to 5.0 percent. The decline in GDP growth in the first year after Aquino’s election was sharper than during his predecessor’s term.

Economists, including the National Statistical Coordination Board, blamed the Aquino administration’s under-spending on infrastructure as a major reason for the “feeble growth in 2011. It missed the government’s official 12-month target of 4.5-5.5 percent. Aquino III restricted state spending as part of his high-profile anti-corruption campaign.

In 2016, when Duterte won the presidency, GDP grew by 6.8 percent, and the consensus is that the country would likely hit the target range of 6.5 to 7.5 percent in 2017, despite the absence of a boost from election as in 2017.

In a report following the annual visit of its representatives, the conservative International Monetary Fund (IMF) said GDP growth would likely hit 6.6 percent this year, slightly lower than its earlier forecast of 6.8 percent. The IMF also expects the Philippines to sustain GDP growth at 6.8 percent during the medium term, strengthening the country’s position as a growth leader in Asia.

The Duterte administration is showing that it can pursue the campaign against corruption without sacrificing economic growth. For instance, the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), which was perceived in the past as one of the most corrupt government agencies, has adopted measures to enforce the President’s policy of zero tolerance for corruption.

The DPWH is maximizing technology to constantly monitor the implementation of projects, and has established standards to eliminate opportunities for corruption among employees and contractors.

This is significant because the DPWH is the lead agency that is implementing the government’s “Build, Build, Build” program, a massive infrastructure program involving P8 trillion to P9 trillion up to 2022.

There is still much to be done, but the improving statistics on hunger and poverty, as well as the massive infrastructure program and other reforms being adopted by the Duterte administration reflect the realization of the promise made by the former Davao City mayor when he ran for the presidency: To improve the lives of the Filipino people.


This piece first came out in Business Mirror on Aug. 14, 2017 under the column “The Entrepreneur.” For comments/feedback e-mail to: [email protected] or visitwww.mannyvillar.com.ph./PN)
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