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EDITORIAL - Middling

Close on the heels of the country’s slide in the latest Doing Business Report comes the 2010 Human Development Index. In this report prepared by the United Nations Development Program, the Philippines ranked 99th among 169 countries in terms of the principal indicators – health, education and income.

It was an improvement from the previous year’s 105th rank, but the UNDP cautioned the public against comparing the results of its 20th anniversary study with those in previous years, because some of the criteria have been modified for this year’s index. Per capita Gross Domestic Product, for example, has been replaced by Gross National Income per capita, which includes remittances from overseas as well as international development assistance.

The latest Human Development Index produced few surprises. Norway remained the best place in the world in terms of quality of life, followed by Australia, New Zealand, the United States, Ireland, Lichtenstein, the Netherlands, Canada, Sweden and Germany. It must be noted that the top 10 in the HDI are not just prosperous and technologically advanced but are also democracies, where people are free to enjoy the fruits of national and personal wealth. Zimbabwe was rated the worst, followed by the Congo, Niger, Burundi, Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau, Chad, Liberia, Burkina Faso and Mali.

The Philippines rated better in this study than in the Doing Business Report, where it ranked behind seven other Southeast Asian countries including Vietnam and Cambodia. In the HDI, the Philippines ranked ahead of Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar as well as South Asian countries India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. But Thailand placed higher at 92nd place while Malaysia was way ahead at 57th, oil-rich Brunei at 37th and top achiever Singapore at 27th.

As international surveys go, this was one of the better ratings received by the Philippines, which has been placing low even in studies on economic and press freedom. But the country’s HDI ranking is still middling, which wouldn’t be so bad if several of its Asian neighbors didn’t rate much better. A new administration is in place, raising hopes for positive change. At the end of six years, President Aquino should be turning over to his successor a country that has caught up and even surpassed several of its neighbors instead of being the regional laggard.

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