Lacierda in denial over Prosperity Index findings

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Presidential Edwin Lacierda’s reaction to our column Filipinos worse off under Aquino (28 January) only reveals that he is in pathetic denial—in the face of hard facts—over the Legatum Institute’s Prosperity Index findings that the Philippines’ ranking in the world in terms of prosperity measures has sunk under President Aquino administration. Or he just can’t understand the   index’ figures.

Lacierda’s sole argument is that the rankings aren’t important, but countries’ “raw scares”—the term he himself uses.

However, it would have been easier for him to understand the Institute’s “Prosperity Index” if he had played more sports.   It is not your raw score—the time it took you to finish a 10-km run or the number of strokes in your golf game—that is informative, but those numbers in relation to those of your competitors, or  just how many strokes more than the course’s par.

Lacierda obviously had to strain his logical facilities in his effort to find a loophole in the institute’s findings that Filipinos have become worse off under President Aquino.   But the “raw scores” which he claims show improvements aren’t even in the Prosperity Index’ main report but in its “Methodology and Technical Appendix.” It is astonishing how Lacierda would try to  replace the report’s conclusions with its raw data.

In the prosperity index, the rankings are important since the raw scores mean little unless these are compared to other countries. Take the Philippines’ scores since 2009  in the Economy Sub-Index:

What to make out of these scores? On their own, these are nearly meaningless. Yet this are the kind of “raw scores” Lacierda argues shows improvement in the country under Aquino’s watch.

Compare that to the scores of two of our Asean neighbors though and the Aquino government’s dismal performance stands out. Indonesia and Vietnam improved their scores so much better that they overtook the country in this department under Aquino’s watch:

The Prosperity Index’ rankings simply make it easier for us to understand how the Philippines and other countries have performed in terms of the factors that make up a nation’s prosperity.

That the Prosperity Index report takes the rankings as most important is obvious in its discussion on Asia-Pacific. The Lega­tum Institute paper even graphically shows how countries moved up or down in the ran­kings. (Editor’s note: The graphic in color is on page 1.) The text accompanying the graphic discusses the changes in countries rankings, for instance: “China has remained relatively stable since last year, ranking 55th overall in 2012.” “India has experienced a a drop in prosperity (ranking). Despite this.. the Governance sub-index remains India’s highest ranking sub-index (49th).

To make the opposite claim from what the prosperity index reports, Lacierda claims: “The following indices have displayed improvement: economy, entrepreneurship and opportunity, governance, health, personal freedom, and social capital.”

Judge for yourself if that statement is correct, with the country’s rankings in the past four years in those indices as follows:
For all Mr. Aquino’s boasting of “daang-matuwid’s” good governance, such an objective analysis as that by the Legatum Institute concluded that it has worsened, with the Philippines’ ranking in that department falling from 55 to 63.

The steepest fall though is in the sub-index “personal safety and state security,” or what we term as the peace and order situation. That finding is certainly not surprising, with such brazen crimes as daylight armed robberies in malls, gangland-style rub-outs by police and soldiers, assassinations of politicians and businessmen being a nearly monotonous, yet frightening news.

After nearly three years in this administration, Lacierda seems to have lowered his expectations. He claims: “A closer look at the data will show that the Philippines is scoring above the global average in many prosperity index variables, in particular, confidence in the government.”

Being above the global average is not necessarily good news, as the list includes many failed sates and countries ravaged by war, such as Zimbabwe, Afghanistan, Congo, and Iraq, that data on these countries pulled down global averages. Lacierda apparently thinks that being ranked 63rd in the governance sub-index—below such troubled countries as Greece, Sri Lanka, Rwanda—is reason enough to celebrate Aquino’s leadership.