If we were to grade the Duterte administration’s performance on the basis of hard evidence, not just on the spiels of the administration’s various PR personnel and spokespersons, what would that grade be?
A very simple and easy way is to judge the President on the macroeconomic performance on the Philippines: output, employment, prices, etc.
A second is to grade his performance against the targets that he set out in his 2017-2022 Philippine Development Plan.
Here is where the PSA’s StatDev comes in. It monitors the accomplishments against the targets yearly, and StatDev 2021, recently released, makes this relatively easy although unfortunately, StatDev assigns equal weights to each and every target and indicator. For example the “Percentage of Filipino citizens (including overseas Filipinos) and resident aliens registered to the Philippine Identification System increased” shares equal importance as “Percentile rank in the WGI Control of Corruption Indicator improved”.
A third way is to focus on indicators of good governance, and how they have moved during his tenure.
Why good governance? Because “promoting good governance in all its aspects, including by ensuring the rule of law, improving the efficiency and accountability of the public sector and tackling corruption, [are] essential elements of a framework within which economies can prosper.” (IMF, 1996). Or, more simply put, it is considered key to achieving sustainable development and human well-being.
Let’s do all, shall we?
I. Grading the Macroeconomic Performance of the Duterte Regime:
An important indicator of the economic performance of the country is how fast it grows — the average annual growth rate of its real Gross Domestic Product (its output at constant prices). In Duterte’s case, that comes out to 3.8% a year. For context: His immediate predecessor, PNoy, averaged 6% a year.
But wait! There was Covid, was there not? Why blame him for that?
Here’s why: in 2020, according to the IMF World Economic Outlook July 2022, world output contracted by 3.4%; the emerging market and middle-income economies which includes us, contracted by 2.2%; the ASEAN-5 (Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam) contracted by 3.4. The Philippines output contracted by 9.4%. We stuck out like a sore thumb. The worst performer.
We were also the worst performer in managing the pandemic, as indicated by our rankings in various lists – the Lancet Commission Report, the Lowy Institute, and the World in Data, to name a few.
The two are related. There is no such thing as a “trade-off” between lives and livelihood.
The well known economist Jeff Sachs found that differences in per capita growth rates between countries can be attributable mostly to government policies and institutions. In the Philippines case, these accounted for between 70% to 79% of the predicted differences between the Philippines and other countries. It matters who governs. Governance is key.
In terms of magnitude, the real GDP of the country increased by about 3.6 Tr during Duterte’s tenure. It should be pointed out, however, that public sector debt (at current prices) increased by 4.2 Tr in the same period. Which means roughly that every peso increase in output of the country was accompanied by a peso increase in debt.
Furthermore, it is also important to remember that for all the beautiful growth rates we have been experiencing for the past five quarters, the 2022 Sem I GDP is only slightly higher than its 2019 counterpart. Effectively, for the past two years, the country has been treading water instead of forging ahead. And as far as per capita income is concerned, the Filipino people have yet to regain their 2019 per capita incomes.
How about the employment picture?
When Duterte assumed office, the employment rate was 94.6% (unemployment rate 5.4%) When he left office, the employment rate was lower at 94% (unemployment rate 6%). His predecessor’s record: July 2010 employment rate 93.1%; July 2016, 94,6%. That says it all.
Finally, let’s go to price movements.
When Duterte took office, inflation rate for the Philippines was 1.9%, for NCR it was 1.1% and for AONCR (areas outside NCR), 2.1%. On leaving office, those rates were 6.1%, 5.6%, and 6.3%, respectively. Inflation increased. Lets make that insidious comparison with his predecessor again: when PNoy took office in 2010, inflation rates were 3.9%, 4.1% and 3.8% for the Philippines, NCR, and AONCR, respectively. When he left office, the rates were down to 1.9%, etc.
Given all the data foregoing, how would you grade the President on the subject of Macroeconomic Performance?