WE EXPLAINED LAST WEEK how Metro Manila appears to possess a clear advantage over the countryside in our current bout with inflation, with prices in the latter having risen four times faster in July-August than in the former. This suggests that recent moves to moderate price increases (like selling cheap NFA rice, fielding of government rolling stores, etc.) may have been unduly biased for Metro Manila. On top of that, studies reveal that government?s track record in helping consumers cope with rising prices (e.g. via various subsidy schemes) reveals a clear bias for Metro Manila as well.
Such bias is hardly surprising. It?s the principle of ?the squeaky wheel gets the grease? at work: political noises have always been much louder in Metro Manila than in the provinces. And Metro Manila, based on Commission on Elections data, accounts for 5.7 million out of the country?s 45 million registered voters, comprising 13 percent or about one-eighth of the total -- corresponding to the proportion of total population as well. In contrast, Metro Manila only accounts for a miniscule 0.2 percent of our total land area. Its population density of 18,648 persons per square kilometer is thus about 72 times the national density of 260.
Metro Manila?s advantage vis-à-vis the countryside goes well beyond having less rapid inflation than the latter. I had already mentioned that about one-third of the country?s total incomes (measured by GDP) are earned in Metro Manila, which also accounts for nearly half of the growth in incomes. That we have a highly Metro Manila-centric economy is already obvious from the above figures.
I was led by the above observations to look into the latest edition of the publication ?The Philippine Countryside in Figures,? a useful and interesting volume that is released annually by the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB). Here are some noteworthy highlights for 2007:
?The Human Development Index or HDI?a UN measure that combines measures of average income, health and education?is 0.887 in Metro Manila, against the national index of 0.629. Broken down into its components, average income in Metro Metro Manila of P44,357 is more than twice the national average of P21,104. Life expectancy is one year longer (70 vs. 69), and literacy rate is more than eight percentage points higher (92.4 vs. 83.8 percent).
?In Metro Manila, government spent P1,129 per person in social services, four times the national average of only P282.
?There are six doctors for every 100,000 people in Metro Manila, twice the national average of only three. Some provinces have only one or less (Zamboanga Sibugay, Basilan and Tawi-tawi in Mindanao; Aurora and Bataan in Luzon).
?Only one in every 14 Metro Manila families (7.1 percent) was poor in 2006, whereas the national average is about one in every four (26.9 percent). Other studies also consistently point out that among the Filipino poor, almost three out of every four (70 percent) come from the rural areas.
?All national roads (100 percent) in Metro Manila are paved in either concrete (69 percent) or asphalt (31 percent), whereas the national average is only 71.5 percent, with 45.5 percent in concrete and 26 percent in asphalt.
?There were four murders recorded per 100,000 population in Metro Manila, against the national average of six.? But this seeming ?advantage? is only in murder statistics; as pointed out below, overall crime incidence in Metro Manila is much higher than in the rest of the country.
Metro Manila is not favored in everything, though. There are a few indicators wherein Metro Manilans are worse off relative to provincianos:
?Unemployment rate in Metro Manila is now much higher at 13.8 percent, against 8 percent nationwide. The jobless rate has in fact always been consistently the highest in Metro Manila, reflecting excessive migration of people from the provinces.
?There are 41 pupils for every teacher in Metro Manila, whereas the national average is only 35, indicating that the capital region is at a disadvantage in terms of teacher to pupil ratio.
?Other than murder, incidence of other crimes against persons or property in Metro Manila is 2-3 times the national average. In general, it is far safer to live in the provinces than in Metro Manila in terms of crime incidence.?
Overall, socio-economic development indicators and interventions are clearly lopsided against the countryside. If we really want to narrow gaps and achieve more equitable, broad-based improvement in the quality of life of Filipinos, the indicators above should help guide us in designing more appropriate approaches and solutions.
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