By Ted Torres
Thursday, May 15, 2008
The Philippines was ranked among the lowest in the Asia Pacific region in terms of offering its population social protection, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) said.
The ADB study gave the Philippines a 0.21 percent rating against the regional average of 0.35 percent. The Philippines was bunched among the lowest 10 in a field of 33 countries covered by the study on a weighing scale between 0 to one percent.
ADB vice president Ursula Schafer-Preuss said the Philippines reflected poor performance in protecting its people in terms of insurance, health services, and other issues of poverty.
“Ironically, the Philippines has one of the most advanced instruments for social protection,” Preuss lamented.
Axel Weber, one of three authors of the study, said the Philippines lacks a wide coverage in social protection, as well as the depth of benefits offered to its population.
Weber cited the Social Security System (SSS) and the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) as among the few positive entities but they only covered less than half of the entire population.
“And they are offering limited benefits compared to its regional counterparts,” he added.
Another product of the study proves that the economic health of the country is not an excuse for failing to protect its population.
“There is no correlation between the gross domestic product (GDP) per capita income and the social protection index (SDI),” Weber said during the report’s formal launching yesterday.
The findings therefore have huge political implications. Some of the countries covered by the study and classified as a “developed nation” ranked lower than others classified as “developing.”
As a percentage of GDP, the Philippines ranked in the low 22 in the field of 33. The country was only spending 2.2 percent of GDP for social protection, versus the regional average of 4.8 percent.
While Japan ranked first in the category, the Marshall Islands, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyz Republic, Mongolia and Korea were ranked second to sixth, respectively.
It only proves that a poorer nation can protect its population as well as an advanced neighbor, the ADB said.
The same study revealed the Philippines did not have a major social protection program for children. Protection for the local sector also failed to reach a single percentage point in contrast to general social insurance reaching 79.2 percent.
In contrast, countries like Mongolia, Uzbekistan, Bhutan, and Cook Islands rated in double digits.
In terms of social protection in the area of health, the Philippines was again ranked 22nd, thus giving it an index of 0.2, slightly better than Cambodia. Papua New Guinea, Pakistan, Laos, Vanuatu and Nepal.
The development of a social protection index (SDI) was inspired by the benchmark human development index of the UNDP, the Dow Jones index and the consumer price index.
The key indicators of the SDI are the extent of protection, the kind and quality of coverage, the distribution of the various types of protection, and the impact of the existing social protection on the population and the economy.
By being able to set ratings or indices, Weber said the study will call the attention of the national governments.