QUEZON CITY, Philippines - The Philippines is racing against time. It is struggling to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) by 2015. Of the eight goals, the government is unlikely to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger and achieve universal education, MDG goals 1 and 2, respectively, based on statistics and indicators as of February 2010.
With only five years left, the government concedes that there are challenges.
Philippine Finance Secretary Margarito Teves said the biggest problem is the lack of funds.
“Mostly, we are deficient on the expenditure side, largely on education and health services,” Teves told this blogger in an interview for THINK3. He said that overall, the government is not spending enough for such services because there are not enough funds.
“We need more funds. We need to increase our level of spending for services. To do that, we need more revenues,” he said.
The key is really to increase revenues, Teves stressed.
Last year, the government’s budget deficit hit P298 billion or roughly USD6.6 billion at the current exchange rate.This is equivalent to roughly 3.5 percent of the country's total economic output.
This lack of revenues is the government’s main stumbling block in achieving all eight MDGs.
However, increasing revenues by slapping the people with new taxes as what the government wants to do isn’t the only answer. Corruption and smuggling in the Philippines continue to be rampant, a problem that needs to be addressed.
Indeed, in the government's progress report on the MDGs, the government is realistic enough to note that there are some areas that may be difficult to achieve. The progress report listed down the eight MDGs and below each goal are various indicators. For every indicator there is one of three faces: The green smiling face indicates that the pace of progress is high; the yellow “neutral” face indicates “medium” pace of progress and the red sad face indicates that pace of progress is low.
I. MDG GOAL 1: Eradicate Extreme Poverty and Hunger
The target is to halve by 2015, the proportion of people whose income is less than one dollar a day.
There are three indicators for this target but the most telling is indicator one which is the Proportion of Population Below National Poverty Threshold. The government hopes to bring to only 22.7 percent the proportion of population below the national poverty threshold from 32.9 percent as of 2006. The government put a yellow neutral face for this indicator which means that there is a 50 percent chance of meeting this goal and an equal 50 percent chance of failing. Another indicator is to lower the prevalence of underweight children under age five. The goal is to bring this down to 17.3 percent of the population by 2015 but the latest available data, which is for 2008, showed that the prevalence of underweight children under five years of age is still at a high 26.2 percent of the population.
II. MDG GOAL 2: Achieve Universal Primary Education
Unfortunately for this goal, which is one of the most important factors for genuine development for any country, the government conceded that all four indicators are experiencing very low pace of progress: All have red sad faces.
Indicator one which is to bring the net enrollment ratio in primary education to a full 100 percent by 2015 is difficult to achieve because as of 2007--the latest available figure for this indicator--the net enrollment ratio in primary education, is still at 84.8 percent, the government said.
Similarly, the proportion of pupils starting from grade 1 who reached grade 6 is still at 75.3 percent as of 2007 when the goal is to bring this to a full 100 percent of the population by 2015.
Furthermore, the country's primary completion rate is still 73.1 percent as of 2007 when the goal is to bring this to 100 percent by 2015.
The last indicator under this goal is to improve the literacy rate of 15 to 24 years old to 100 percent by 2015. As of 2003, the literacy rate is 96.6 percent and the government said that the pace of progress is low.
III. MDG GOAL 3: Promote Gender Equality and Empower Women
Most of the indicators under this goal are achievable, the government said. These include improving the ratio of girls to boys in primary, secondary and tertiary education and the share of women in wage employment in the non-agricultural sector.
However, the government said that another indicator which is to improve the proportion of seats held by women in national parliament, is not likely to be achieved.
As of 2007, the proportion of seats held by women in national parliament is 20.2 percent, still far from the goal to bring this to 50 percent by 2015.
IV. MDG GOAL 4: Reduce Child Mortality
The target is to reduce by two-thirds, between 1990 and 2015 the under-five mortality rate. The government is pleased to report that this goal is likely to be achieved, with the rate as of 2008 at 33.5 percent.
However, the government noted that it may not achieve another indicator for this goal which is to improve the proportion of one-year old children immunized against measles to a full 100 percent. As of 2007, only 82.7 percent of one-year old children are immunized against measles.
V. MDG GOAL 5: Improve Maternal Health
In the area of maternal health, the government isn’t optimistic of meeting the target.
In 2006, the maternal mortality rate was 162 percent. The government hopes to bring this down to 52.3 percent by 2015 but the government believes this is unlikely to be achieved. It also hopes to increase the proportion of births attended by skilled health personnel to a full 100 percent from a low of 72.9 percent in 2007.
VI. MDG GOAL 6: Combat HIV/AIDS, Malaria and Other Diseases
To achieve the goal of combating HIV and AIDS, the government hopes to increase the use of condoms and contraceptives but with the Philippines as a predominantly Catholic country, it is not optimistic of meeting the target.
On the other hand, the government said it is making some progress in fighting malaria. As of 2003, the death rate associated with malaria is 0.3 percent and the goal is to bring this to 0.0 percent.
VII. MDG GOAL 7: Ensure Environmental Sustainability
For this target, the government hopes to integrate the principles of sustainable development into country policies and programmes to reverse the loss of environmental resources; to halve, by 2015, the proportion of population without sustainable access to safe drinking water and improved sanitation; and to achieve by 2020 a significant improvement in the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers.
In the area of reversing environmental losses, the government hopes to increase the proportion of land area covered by forest, increase the ratio of areas protected to maintain biological diversity to surface and to decrease the proportion of households using solid fuels for cooking.
VIII. MDG GOAL 8: Develop A Global Partnership For Development
The government hopes to achieve this goal by “dealing comprehensively with the debt problems of developing countries thru national and international measures in order to make debt sustainable in the long term; to develop and implement strategies for decent and productive work for youth and with the help of the private sector, to make available the benefits of new technologies, especially information and communications.”
Specifically, the government hopes to slash debt service as a percentage of exports of goods and services and to cut the unemployment rate of 15 to 24 year olds.
In the area of communications, the government hopes to increase the number of telephone line and cellular phone subscribers.
Unfortunately for this goal, the government was unable to provide progress updates.
As seen in the government's progress report, the statistics are stark and telling. There are only five years remaining. The Philippines is racing against time.