Aquino graded so-so 6.1

Rating is lower than expected, say NGOs

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12:40 am | Monday, July 28th, 2014

President Benigno S. Aquino III. (Malacañang Photo Bureau)

MANILA, Philippines—A coalition of nongovernment organizations (NGOs) has given the Aquino administration a grade of 6.11 in his fourth year in office, a rating that suggests “something has been accomplished but is lower than expected.”

Based on a scale of 1 to 10 in which 10 was the highest, the rating given by the Movement for Good Governance (MGG) marked a steady improvement from the group’s annual score since 2010 but still fell short of the 7.5 minimum score to be deemed “on track” to achieve targets.

MGG, chaired by former Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Solita Monsod, is advocating government transparency, accountability, integrity and honesty.

The civil society coalition started benchmarking the performance of the administration in 2010 using a scorecard system to assess the extent to which the administration has implemented the President’s platform.

MGG said the scoring was done “based on data and not on perceptions.” The administration’s total score of 6.11 for 2013 was a slight improvement over its score in 2012, based on the latest assessment issued by MGG ahead of Aquino’s State of the Nation Address. MGG gave the administration a score of 5.77 for 2012, 5.59 in 2011 and 4.53 in 2010.

By contrast, Aquino’s ratings have gone down to their lowest levels since 2010 based on perceptions. His performance and trust ratings have plunged from March to June, according to results of Pulse Asia surveys.

His net satisfaction rating has also dropped considerably during the same period, according to Social Weather Stations.

For the 2013 assessment, MGG noted with favor the increasing performance of the administration in managing the economy and public finance.

However, the coalition said that no significant improvement had been observed in the development of the agricultural sector.

Overall, MGG lauded the achievement of targets in the government’s investment-to-GDP (gross domestic product) ratio, improvement in the country’s global competitiveness, particularly in doing business, and the attainment of a peace agreement with the Bangsamoro.

But the coalition said achieving the employment generation target should be taken with a grain of salt since it was attained by lowering the target.

MGG noted the progress of the administration in achieving the goals of its infrastructure program, maintaining macro-stability, providing universal healthcare and attaining health-related Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Efforts were made in achieving the targets in revenue-generation, promoting the competitiveness of the agricultural sector, providing post-harvest facilities and promoting agricultural development in Mindanao, the group said. However, it said the results of the programs were lower than expected.

Low marks were given to government’s poverty reduction program, the export to GDP ratio, observance of the rule of law, control of private armies, the import program on basic commodities like rice and bio-security (i.e. protection from pests and diseases).

MGG said there was a need to strengthen the universal healthcare program as 47.6 percent of deaths in the country involved persons unattended by physicians.

The coalition also lamented the low ratio of healthcare workers to the population, high out-of-pocket expenses of patients, high maternal mortality rate and rising AIDS cases.

Sore points

MGG said the updated Philippine Development Plan for 2011-2016 seemed to allow jobless growth with increased poverty.

“What else are needed? Access to opportunities, which aside from spatial considerations, includes lowering mobility costs for goods and people, and investments in education and health that build capabilities regardless of the location of people,” MGG said.

The coalition found interesting government’s admission that the country would not meet the first MDG target—halving poverty incidence from its 1990 level by 2015.

Instead, MGG noted that the updated plan had increased the targeted poverty incidence from 16.6 percent to as high as 20 percent. With a population reaching 100 million, this meant that the administration was willing to accept anywhere from 1.4 million to 3.4 million more poor than it originally intended, MGG said.

“This is shameful. But it is, unfortunately, only to be expected, with the lower employment targets and the deliberate reduction of agriculture and fishery targets. All the other attempts at making growth inclusive will just be band-aid solutions,” MGG said.

The coalition said the only bright light in the poverty situation was the conditional cash-transfer (CCT) program, which now serves 4.2 million families and has extended educational benefits up to the end of high school at a cost of over P60 billion.

“This does not lift the poor out of poverty now, but its effects in improving health and education capital of the poor will be felt after the Aquino administration. In this regard, the President’s statesmanship—taking the longer view—must be acknowledged,” MGG said.

As for the public-private partnership program, MGG said seven projects had been awarded. Another 10 received Neda board approval while the list of projects increased to 30.

MGG said the updated target of boosting the tax effort ratio to 14.65 percent of GDP in 2014 would likely not be met.

It recognized the expressed intent of the administration in using the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) in pump-priming the economy, in supporting the needy and in improving the delivery of health and education services, while taking into account the ruling of the Supreme Court declaring part of the DAP unconstitutional.

“MGG has strong biases for the respect for the rule of law as well as the need to strengthen institutions not only for ethical reasons, but to promote stability and governance,” the group said.

It gave the administration a score of 5.00 on management of expenditures.

It said there had been significant developments in the sector over the past three years, such as the dramatic increase in the budget of the Department of Agriculture, reversal of the decline in irrigated areas, refocusing on staples sufficiency (rice, corn, banana, camote, cassava and gabi) from rice self-sufficiency and growing appreciation of crop diversification, especially tree crops.

However, the coalition said the problems of the agriculture sector were not only for the agriculture department to address, citing roads, extension services (under municipalities), research, smuggling, bio-security, land access and credit delivery.

“The government must act with dispatch against smuggling and the resistance by the Bureau of Customs regarding import preinspection by quarantine officers that will safeguard the country’s bio-security,” MGG said.





Originally posted: 6:07 pm | Sunday, July 27th, 2014

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Tags: Agriculture , Benigno Aquino III , Economy , Education , environment , governance , Health , Movement for Good Governance , News , Philippine president , public finance , score card , State of the Nation Address

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