Human Development Index

Localizing Development Measures

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by Ike Señeres

THE Human Development Index (HDI) is a composite statistic to rank countries into four tiers of human development, namely low, medium, high and very high. The countries are ranked based on three measures, namely the life expectancy index, the education index and the income index. The life expectancy is measured from birth. The education index is measured by the adult literacy rate and the combined primary, secondary and tertiary gross enrolment ratio. The income index is measured through the standard of living, as indicated by the natural logarithm of gross domestic product (GDP) per capita at purchasing power parity.

Simply put the HDI measures life expectancy in relation to the mortality rate. It measures the literacy rate in relation to the illiteracy rate. In a manner of speaking, it measures the prosperity rate in relation to the poverty rate. In usual practice, the illiteracy rate is usually not measured, being just the opposite of the literacy rate. In the same manner, the prosperity rate is also not usually measured, being just the opposite of the poverty rate. It stands to reason however that the prosperity rate actually reflects the statistic of all those who are above the poverty line.

As I understand it, the Philippine government is not ranking the provinces in terms of their human development indices, either using the HDI method or any other measure. As I also understand it, there is no such thing as a Gross Provincial Product (GPP) in relation to the Gross National Product (GNP). But since the HDI method measures only the GDP, perhaps it would also be a good idea to also measure the Gross Provincial Domestic Product (GPDP). On a similar note, it may also be a good idea to measure the Provincial Per Capita Income (PPCI).

In my previous columns, I wrote about JEWEL, short for a development framework that would organize and coordinate the delivery of five basic services at the local level, namely Justice, Education, Wellness, Employment and Livelihood. Among these five basic services, only the last four are directly relevant to the HDI method. However, it could be said that justice is actually indirectly relevant to the HDI method, because the lack of it could be a way to deny access to the last four.

Although it is really not that simple as it seems, employment and livelihood are the obvious means to increase the incomes of our people, thus also elevating their standards of living. I am using “employment” here in a loose sense, because it could also mean “self-employment”, a concept that could also mean having a small business. I am also using “livelihood” here in a loose sense, because it could also mean having a small business or perhaps it could also mean practicing one’s craft or profession.

Very recently, several police directors got into hot water when it was discovered that they were tampering with local crime rate statistics, obviously to make it appear that the crime rate is low in their jurisdictions, meaning to say that they are doing their job well. I wrote about this problem many years back, and I argued that the Philippine National Police (PNP) should not be the source of crime rate reports, because that would put them in a conflict of interest situation. Naturally, they would tend to make it appear that everything is good; otherwise it would make them look bad. Having said that, who could possibly report the provincial HDI data without a possible conflict of interest?

In the case of the PNP anomaly, it would seem that the problem is in the consolidation of the data, and not in the gathering of the data. Since there was apparently no problem in the crime rate reports of the other police directors, it would be fair to say that the honest ones did not tamper with the data that was submitted by the lower levels that could also be presumed to be honest. For lack of any other practical choice, could we possibly rely on the local mayors to be honest in reporting their local HDI data?

On the upside, I would say that the statistical methods that are used in computing the HDI data are purely transparent and technical, meaning that these could not possibly be corrupted by political interventions. Moreover, the resulting computations could be subjected to the review of local accountants and auditors, who could all be presumed to be politically neutral. The key to this however is the accuracy of the input data, because otherwise, it would just be a “Garbage In, Garbage Out” situation.

I believe that once the controversies over the recent scams are over, the focus will shift to genuine local development projects that will be implemented by the local government units (LGUs) on their own, or in cooperation with Non-Government Units (NGOs). I could only hope that the LGUs would give priority to projects that would increase their HDI performance. I am also hoping that they would plan and implement their projects in line with the JEWEL framework.

On my part, I am now working on a project that would provide an alternative information superhighway for national development and emergency response purposes, as a way of helping LGUs and NGOs alike. I have no doubt in my mind that one way or the other, information and communications technology (ICT) holds the key to the attainment of national development, but first, the LGUs must do their part in local development.
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