Philippines slips in prosperity index

by Jo Javan A. Cerda, BusinessWorld

Posted at Oct 28 2010 01:10 AM | Updated as of Oct 28 2010 11:53 PM

MANILA, Philippines - The country slipped 3 notches to 64th place in a global assessment of the economic wealth and well-being of 110 nations, the London-based Legatum Institute said in a report released on Wednesday.

The Prosperity Index 2010 took into account 8 factors considered as "foundations of prosperity that define successful nations". The countries included in the ranking make up 90% of the world population and 97% of global gross domestic product (GDP).

Nathan A. Gamester, research assistant at Legatum, told BusinessWorld the report used data from 2008-2009 and surveys in 2009 and 2010.

Norway, Denmark, Finland, Australia and New Zealand topped the list, while Nigeria, Ethiopia, Central African Republic, Pakistan and Zimbabwe were at the bottom.

"The recession has had an impact on how well many countries perform on economic measures but the Prosperity Index finds countries that are able to foster a strong culture of entrepreneurship are best positioned to overcome the current financial difficulties," Ashley Lenihan, senior fellow at Legatum, said in a statement.

The Philippines, down from an overall rank of 61st last year, placed 52nd in terms of the economy, 69th in entrepreneurship and opportunity, 55th in governance, 60th in education, 81st in health, 85th in safety and security, 56th in personal freedom and 82nd in social capital.

Of the 7 Association of Southeast Asian Nations included, the country ranked fifth overall, higher than Indonesia (70th) and Cambodia (95th) but lower than Singapore (17th), Malaysia (43rd), Thailand (52nd) and Vietnam (61st). Not covered were Brunei, Laos and Myanmar.

The report noted the Philippines’s poor economic fundamentals but also its high level of high-tech exports, said to have accounted for nearly two-thirds of total manufactured goods.

"Over two-thirds of the population are satisfied with their standards of living, which places the country above average, while 73% are optimistic about employment opportunities where they live," the report said.

It also said most Filipinos saw entrepreneurial opportunities as available despite high start-up costs.

"Economic development is unevenly shared across different socioeconomic groups in the Philippines, with the country placing 71st on this variable. However, 88% think that working hard allows people to get ahead in life," it added.

A majority was said to be satisfied with the government’s approach in dealing with the poor.

"...[P]ublic confidence in the national government is at 63%. Further, a very high 78% and 84%, respectively, are satisfied with their country’s efforts to deal with poverty and preserve the environment, on which variables the Philippines rank fourth, globally," the report said.

Corruption in the government and businesses are perceived as a "moderate problem."

In terms of education, the report said huge class sizes and low rates of enrolment did not dampen satisfaction with the quality of the educational system.

However, the Philippines lagged in terms of health. The institute said public health provision in the country was poor and satisfaction was correspondingly low.

In terms of safety and security, "the Philippines suffers security problems as a result of refugees and internally displaced people, as well as group grievances and demographic instability -- resulting from border disputes, ownership or occupancy of land, access to transportation outlets, control of religious or historical sites, or proximity to environmental hazards -- placing the country in the worst third of the index on all of these variables."

"Two-thirds of Filipinos feel safe walking down the street at night. However, Filipinos tend to think that many people are afraid to express their political views, placing the country 84th on this variable," the report said.

The Philippines ranked 53rd in terms of freedom of speech, associational and organizational rights and other civil liberties but perceptions of tolerance of outsiders, however, was said to "fairly low."

Social trust was also low in the country, although the levels of volunteering were high.

"Perhaps reflective of high levels of violence, just 13% of Filipinos feel able to trust others in general, placing the country 79th in the world," the report said.