Philippines: From no. 1 to no. 6 in ASEAN

WHAT MATTERS MOST - Josephus Jimenez - The Freeman

The trajectory is downward and our leaders are not even worried. In the 1960's when the president was Diosdado Macapagal, the Philippines was number one among the 10 countries that later formed the ASEAN and second to Japan in the whole Asia Pacific. Under Ferdinand Marcos Sr. in 1975, our country slid down to number 3, overtaken by Singapore and Malaysia. Today, we are hanging up as number 6, badly beaten by Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, and Vietnam.

The unkindest cut of all is being beaten by Vietnam, which in the 1970s was practically pulverized by the bombings by America and other intervening countries in that nasty war between the north and the south. Today, Vietnam is an emerging tiger economy while the Philippines struggles as a sick old cat in Asia. Vietnam is even among the top 6 in the quality of education according to PISA or the Program for International Student Assessment, while the Philippines is among the six worst in science, reading, and mathematics. There is a logical correlation between the worsening economy and the continuing deterioration of our education system.

In terms of GDP per capita, the rankings in 1975 were Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia, and Vietnam. That ranking was maintained in 1980. But after the administrations of presidents Cory Aquino, FVR, Erap and GMA, in 2000, Thailand overtook the Philippines, and the rankings became Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Philippines, Indonesia, and Vietnam. It became worse under GMA in 2003, when Indonesia outranked the Philippines that slid down to number 5. The ranking then was Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines as number 5, and Vietnam. That ranking as number 5 was maintained in 2005, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2013, 2015, 2017, and 2019.

Under Presidents Duterte and BBM, the Philippines was again beaten by Vietnam, and is now the lowest among the six. The ranking from 2021 to 2024 has been consistent: Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines. Singapore's GDP per capita was $77,710 in 2021, $82,810 in 2022, $91,100 in 2023 and a whopping $94,590 in 2024. The Philippines is struggling with $3,580 in 2021, $3,520 in 2022, $3,910 in 2023 and $4,170 in 2024. Vietnam had $3,750 in 2021, $4090 in 2022, $4,480 in 2023 and $4,920 in 2024. The problem confronting us is that there is really no strong economic growth while the population keeps on increasing very fast.

The projections for 2025 to 2028 is that the Philippines will remain number 6 and can never overtake Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, and Vietnam. I hope we shall not be beaten by Myanmar, Laos, and Cambodia. In 2025, Singapore is projected to have a GDP per capita of $98,380, to grow to $102,370 in 2026, to $106,500 in 2027 and to $110,840 in 2028. Vietnam's GDP per capita is projected to rise to $5,400 in 2025, to $5,890 in 2026, to $6,400 in 2027 and to $6,960 in 2028. The Philippines will continue to be lower than Vietnam with a GDP per capita of only $4,440 in 2025, $4,730 in 2026, $5,040 in 2027 and $5,380 in 2028.

What could be the reasons for these poor performances relative to our neighbors? First of all, unabated corruption and inefficiency of the government bureaucracy, runaway population, deteriorating education, healthcare, and welfare services, very small direct foreign investment, and peace and order exacerbated by unpredictable weather conditions and worsening environment. Most of these are man-made and many of these could have been prevented had we elected the right leaders. At the end of the day, all of us must share the blame.

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