Benguet tops development index; Sulu is last

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Residents of Benguet province may take a bow.

Benguet was named the best province in terms of human development in the Philippine Human Development Report (PHDR) that was launched on Monday at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Pasig City.

The PHDR is an update on the progress of the country’s provinces in terms of the income, health, and knowledge of their residents.

Other provinces in the Top 10 are Batanes, Rizal, Cavite, Bulacan, Bataan, Laguna, Nueva Vizcaya, Ilocos Norte and Pampanga. These provinces are all in Luzon.

Sulu was named the least developed province, followed by Maguindanao, Tawi-Tawi, Zamboanga, Agusan del Sur, Davao Oriental, Sarangani, Zamboanga del Norte, Masbate and Lanao del Sur.

All of these provinces, except for Masbate which is in the Bicol Region, are in Mindanao, the most conflict-ridden part of the country where a communist insurgency and a secession war being waged by Moro groups have been raging for decades.

Human development, as defined by the Unites Nations Development Program (UNDP), is a way of giving people more life choices.

3 basic dimensions

For people to lead better lives, they must enjoy health and long life expectancy, have knowledge as measured in terms of literacy and enrollment ratios, have enough sources of income to meet a decent standard of living, and be able to participate freely in community life and collective affairs.

Average achievement in three basic dimensions (a long and healthy life, knowledge and a decent standard of living) make up the human development index used in ranking the provinces in the 2013 PHDR.

On average, adults in the Top 5 provinces have 10.1 years of schooling or 73 percent more than adults in the bottom five provinces, according to the PHDR.

Adults in Sulu, for example, have only 4.6 years of schooling.

In terms of purchasing power per person, those in the Top 5 provinces are estimated to have almost three times more than those in any province in the bottom five.

Life expectancy is also longer in the top provinces. The province with the longest life expectancy, however, is not in the Top 10.

Waste of resources

La Union has the highest life expectancy at 76.4 years, which is 22.8 years more than that in Tawi-Tawi, which has the shortest life span at 53.6 years.

The report noted that “traditional” setups such as the pork barrel system have institutionalized wastage of resources and overlapping investments.

These arrangements have also resulted in the implementation of many small projects with little or no developmental value (e.g. town or village entrance arches, multipurpose pavements and waiting sheds) and duplication of programs regardless of the scale, synergy and integration of larger markets.

Economist Toby Melissa Monsod said that overly centralized development planning and implementation by government agencies helped contribute to the concentration of development in cities.

“The aim of economic integration is to reduce the distance of people, especially the poor, to economic opportunities wherever the latter may be found. This is not the same as ‘bringing jobs to the people,’ which is easily misunderstood literally as promoting industry in lagging provinces,” Monsod said in a presentation at the PHDR launch.

She said the first was concerned with the welfare of people and the second with the fate of places.

Recommendations

Monsod recommended that government make infrastructure more connected, provide basic education and health services where needed, and give local authorities more say on what priority developments should be undertaken.

“In the best case, empowering provinces must include: reform legislation to strengthen their role in the provision of public goods, a larger tax base, restructuring national government agencies (such as the Department of Agriculture, Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the Department of Agrarian Reform), and a formal mandate for provinces to lead rural-urban efforts within their geographical jurisdictions.

The UNDP country director, Toshihiro Tanaka, said in a speech that the PHDR highlighted the development variations brought about by geographic influence.

The PHDR is a useful reference in development planning and will especially assist local governments in reviewing policies and interventions to maximize their efficiency in accordance to geographical uniqueness.

One way local governments can use the PHDR is to understand geography’s impact on human development and apply such learnings to address rising inequality and disparity between urban and rural areas, Tanaka said.

Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan noted that the Philippine Development Plan 2011-2016 was being updated and the PHDR findings were helping policy makers as they consider how to make growth more inclusive.

The launching of the 2013 PHDR comes months after the release of the UN Human Development Report in the first quarter of the year.

The Philippines ranked 114th (out of 187 countries) in the 2013 UN Human Development Report.

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