How to (Not) Make Data-Driven Choices

November 13-19, 2023



Reader, let’s do a mental exercise.  Put yourself in place of a head-hunter, or a Human Resource expert, or, let’s be honest,  PBBM.  You are tasked with looking for the most qualified person to head the Department of Agriculture (the DA), which oversees the agriculture, fisheries and forestry (AFF) sector of the economy.


How important is AFF in the economy ?  Well, latest data from the PSA show that it accounts for about 8.5 to 9.0 %  of total output (GDP), with fisheries accounting for 1.3 percentage points.  It accounts for 20% of total employment (4 percentage points of which are fisherfolk).    Moreover, farmers and fisherfolk are among poorest basic sectors, with poverty incidence of  30 and 30.6% respectively (compared to a national poverty incidence of 18.1% ).  In 2021, there were 348,000 poor fisherfolk, and 2.4 million farmers.  Finally, a WB study finds that agricultural growth has special powers in reducing poverty:   GDP growth originating in agriculture is at least twice as effective in reducing poverty as GDP growth originating outside agriculture


So it is very important, right?  But to continue: You have narrowed the candidates down to two, with the following respective Curricula Vitae .  These CV are not as complete as one would like them to be, having been obtained from the googling the candidates and from news reports, rather than having the candidates submit their own.  But the data given should be sufficient to make a judgment.  


* UST Assistant Registrar Kashmer Cruz was quoted was saying that there is no record of  candidate A’s graduating with a computer science degree from the university. Nor did the Office of the Registrar and the accounting department find any record of enrollment in the University of the name of candidate A.


Received training in refrigeration, net manufacturing, engine overhauling, electronics, hydraulics, food manufacturing, shipbuilding, and ship repair. **


** There is no indication of where the training took place,  or how long the training periods were

Who would you choose, Reader? 


It is a no brainer.  The CVs show that Candidate B is an internationally and nationally recognized agriculture expert – with specialization in rice, and climate change, and with great administrative and management work experience. And that is who is needed at the helm of the Department of Agriculture.  The award he received from the Vietnamese government was in recognition of the fact that he had helped them, through climate-smart mapping, avoid an El Nino disaster that befell them in 2016 and which had caused the production loss through salinization of more than one million tons of rice.   


And yet, PBBM chose Candidate A, whose expertise, if any, is limited to commercial fisheries while most of our fisherfolk are municipal or artisanal fishermen.  Nothing in his CV suggests anything more


But the point is:  What does PBBM’s choice say about the way he makes his decisions?   How does he rationalize this choice?  And his other, equally unfortunate choices?  What does this portend for the Philippines? Let’s think on that.

As I See It

The Official Blog of Winnie Monsod

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