Redeeming Comparisons

by Juan L. Mercado

Suppose  this  province were a  country unto itself. How  would this “province-imagined-country”  stack up  if compared  with actual nations in what really matters:  better lives of its citizens?.

Metro  Manilans  would  find  themselves  wedged  between  Lebanese  and Peruvians, says   “Philippine  Human  Development Report  2008/2009.”( That  ranking  ) is “higher than Thailand  but  lower than Turkey”.
Benguet  would clone  Armenia,   PHDR  inter-country  comparison   reveals  .Cebu  “matches the Palestinian territories”. Davao del Sur,  Abra  and  Bohol   lie between Nicaragua and Uzbekistan.”

“Tawi-Tawi is sandwiched between Nigeria and Senegal.   Manguindanao compares to Ghana. And Sulu  fits in with Mauritania and Pakistan, ” the study adds.

Filipino scientists, in  Human Development  Network, wrote  PHDR.  The biennial  study  started in 1990. UN Development Programme  and  New Zealand co-sponsored this latest study.

Both the global  “Human Development  Report” and   PHDR go  beyond traditional measuring tools, e.g. gross domestic product. They  apply  “human development indices”. HDIs  factor  in life expectancy, schooling and  poverty.  These  give  insights into lives of people.

“Those  born  in  2006  in  La  Union  could live to  74.6 years,”  the study asserts. Among Filipinos, this is now the longest life span. Those  in  Tawi-Tawi  have  life spans  shorter by 21 years.

Nationwide, “Filipinos born in 2006 will live, on average, about eight years longer compared to those born in  1980,” PHDR  notes. “Between 1980 and  2006, life expectancy  improved by roughly three years for  every decade.”

“Those expected  to live the shortest  are  in Agusan del Norte ”,  Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao’s  conflict-savaged  provinces, and backwaters of  the Cordillera  Administrative Region.

PHDR  offers inter-country analysis  “It  is eye-opening  that, in an international perspective, provinces with the lowest (human development) are comparable to a number of African countries, Cambodia or Myannmar.”

Life  expectancy is  in  the  70’s – and climbing in .Bulacan,  Ilocos  Norte,  Camarines Sur, Benguet, Cebu, Batangas, Pampanga  Cagayan and Albay,  PHDR  reveals. But  Icelanders, life spans is 81.

In  Iloilo and  Negros Occidental, average life  expectancy  is 70. That’s  comparable to  Slovakia and Malta.  Boholanos  tend to live as long as New Zealanders.  .  

“Tawi-Tawi,  Sulu,  Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur  are worst off”,  the  study adds.

Abbreviated  lives in this twighlight zone  range from low 60s to high 50s.. Lumped here  are   Ifugao,   Kalinga, Basilan,  Palawan,  Apayao  and Mt.  Province. These resemble life spans in Yemenis or Laotiansw..

“Differences  in   homes, clothing or  even menus are galling”,  the late  National Scientist Dioscoro Umali  wrote.”But  denial of life itself and premature graves  are an obscene injustice…These  are death sentences. And they  cut  into the very depths of our common humanity.”

Look at other HDI  indicators .Filipinos  splurge on pork barrels  but   scrimp on health  For every dollar  we  allocate for health, Malaysians spend two, and  Koreans  five.

This results in   skewed  survival rates.  For every 1,000 births here, 25 infants die. Thais  have cut that to 18.  In every 100,000 births,  230 mothers die – —  a  toll  that  approaches Cape Verde.

PHDR’s  Table: “Countries Versus Provinces” provides these comparisons:: Iloilo  is on par with Tonga.   Bracketed  between  Azerbaijan and Paraguay are: Laguna,  Bataan,  Batangas,  and Pampanga.”  Ilocos  Norte draws  alongside Syria.  Zambales and Misamis Oriental are boxed between Bolivia and Mongolia.

Vietnam  and Uzbekistan bracket  Albay, Isabela, Nueva Vuzcaya, Sorsogon and Ilocos Sur.    Lodged between  Krygzstan and Vanuatu are:, Misamis Occidental,  Tarlac, Marinduque, Lanao del Norte  and  Quirino,  

An  even larger group bunch  between  Tajikistan and Botswana; These are  Quezon, Camiguin, Surigao del Norte, Oriental Mindoro, Zamboanga del Sur, Aklan, Aurora, Souhern Leyte, Leyte,  Davao del Norte and Bukidnon..

After Botswana and before Morroco, you find: Romblon, Capiz, Guimaras, Surigao del Sur, Mt. Province, Negros Oriental, Siquijor, Apayao, North Cotabato, Northern Samar and Antique.

Such  analysis  provides a “reality check.”  Official mindsets here stop at  the seashore. Programs pivot around the next election.  The “20 Percent Development Fund, in local budgets, was to address unmet basic human needs: immunization, nutrition, safe water, etc.  The fund has been perverted into a mini-pork barrel.

Look at the “no-read-no-write” data.   In  Batanes, for example, are only two percent are  “functionally  illiterate. But that bolts to 94 percent  in Tawi-Tawi.   

In Basilan, teachers are often  kidnapped. There, 35 out of every 100 residents. are “functionally illiterate” .Roughly,  the  same  level  of  deprivation  prevails in  Sarangani,  Catanduanes, Western Samar,   Siquijor, Agusan del  Sur, Eastern Samar, Negros Oriental  and North Cotabato. They stand alongside  Nigeria and Cameroon

“The value of  inter-country comparisons is redeemed  only when people – seeing the gap between what is and what could be – begin to demand more of themselves and of those who purport to represent their interests.”  

Will officials itching to   “cha-cha”   listen?

(E-mail: juanlmercado@gmail.comThis e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it )

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