Business World, 21 January 2014


The Philippines’ above normal growth during the last two years has been the highest in ASEAN-5. Yet it, too, has the highest unemployment rate and poverty incidence. With its economic expansion showing some sign of weakness, what kind of future can Filipinos expect?

According to the most recent International Labor Organization unemployment data, the Philippines has the worst unemployment rate among ASEAN countries and Asia (India and China).

Where is the unemployment rate the highest? In the Philippines.

Not surprisingly, the recent Pulse Asia’s December 2013 Ulat ng Bayan survey results show a worsening perception of quality of life (QOL) and the state of the national economy.

When asked to compare their situation in December 2013 relative to that 12 months ago, 84% said that either they were worse off in December 2013 relative to that 12 months ago, or things had not changed — 43% said that their personal situation had deteriorated while 41% had said that their personal circumstances had remained unchanged. Only a small minority (15%) said that their personal situation had improved.

And even in the face of an improving economy, a big plurality of Filipinos (45%) expect no change in their economic circumstances in the coming 12 months.

The optimists (37%) outnumber the pessimists (19%) in the next 12 months, however.

Where is optimism for the next 12 months the highest? In the Visayas (41%) and Mindanao (41%). Unexpectedly, pessimism is the highest in Mindanao too (26%).


One of every two Filipinos (50%) said that the national economy is worse now than the last 12 months. Forty percent (40%) said it has remained unchanged, while only 11% said that it has improved.

Simply put, nine of every 10 Filipinos (90%) did not feel the 7% GDP growth during the last 12 months. This suggests that the strong growth was narrow and shallow. It was far from being inclusive.

The change in perception was quick and drastic. Comparing the survey results in December 2013 with those in June 2013, there was a large increase in the percentage of Filipinos who saw the worsening of the economy — to half from 39%. Similarly, the percentage of Filipinos who saw an improvement shrank from 28% in June 2013 to 11% in December 2013.


Some might ask: what happened to the government’s Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) Program, which had a budget of P44.2 billion in 2013? How many household-beneficiaries were promised and how many were delivered?

In 2014, Congress has appropriated 62.6 billion for CCT. The promise is that the program will benefit 4,329,769 households for the regular CCT; 131,963 for the modified CCT; and 4,287,630 children beneficiaries for the CCT extended coverage until high school.

Does the CCT program really work? Now on its fifth year of implementation, the program needs an independent external evaluation. The Commission on Audit found some lapses in the program’s implementation.

The evaluation should find out whether CCT program really delivers on its promises and whether there are better ways of achieving its objective, which is to minimize dropout rates of poor students.