How do we measure welfare?

Published June 2, 2020, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

Milwida M. Guevara
Milwida M. Guevara

I received a text message from an investment banker who was upbeat about a happy news. The credit rating of the Philippines has been upgraded to BBB+. It a dream come true! The outside world has noticed and affirmed our economic growth, and government’s success in keeping public debt at bay, controlling inflation and managing the budget deficit. Investors should be at peace to place their money in the country. The signs are healthy that government will be able to pay its debts; thus, there is no risk in purchasing government securities.

Pushing this happy news further, it means government will be able to borrow funds with lower costs. It does not have to lure investors with a high interest rate because the country is credit worthy. Government will have the funds it needs to build more roads, provide better health care, and look after the protection of children. What a blissful scenario!

And yet at the same time, we see people walking for 3 hours or more to get to work to earn a day’s wage. We saw a senior citizen collapsing on the street waiting for public transport that never came. We saw a man walking to be able to get to city hall with a mask that he has been wearing for the last three days. We saw people giving up hope that they can still keep their jobs after waiting for hours for a ride under the blistering heat of the sun
How do we measure welfare?

Does welfare mean the presence of police officers manning checkpoints?

Does welfare mean pages and pages of guidelines on the rules of quarantine?

Does welfare mean hours and hours of Congressional hearings on the grant of a TV franchise?

Does welfare mean the grant tax reliefs and tax incentives?

Does welfare mean getting an investment upgrade?

“Mababaw naman ang kaligayahan ng Pinoy.” It does not take much to please Filipinos. Our sense of well-being is in accord with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. We need to have food on the table three times a day. For the poor, it means the certainty of having rice, instant noodles, soy sauce, salt, or vinegar. We need a roof over our head even if it is only a room. We need water to drink, and if possible, water to wash our hands and bathe. And we need 2 sets of clothes at the very least.

And if Filipinos can dream a bit further and move up to the second level of the hierarchy of needs, we should have an assurance that there is a doctor in the health center is case we get sick. And the presence of a dedicated “barangay tanod’ to give us some sense of safety and security. And so that we can have a sense of dignity, we need to earn a living even if it pays a little. And if it is not too much to ask, some means of public transport to be able to get to work.

Ensuring that every Filipino is able to meet his/her physiological and safety needs should be the measure of any government’s success. Using these benchmarks, what grade does our government deserve?

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