The Philippines At a Glance

The Philippines
The Philippines 

After World War II, the Philippines was often regarded as one of the wealthiest nations in Asia. In the 1950s, the country was the second richest nation in Asia with the second largest economy, second only to Japan. So dynamic and bullish was the Philippines’ economy in the 1950s that the World Bank hailed the country as “a future powerhouse“.

Fast forward to today, the year 2012, the Philippines is being tagged as “The Sick Man of Asia“. In the 1960s,  its economic performance started being overtaken by other Asian countries like Singapore and Malaysia.  The economy stagnated some more  under the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos as the regime spawned economic mismanagement and political volatility. The country suffered from slow economic growth and bouts of economic recession. Only in the 1990s with a program of economic liberalization did the economy begin to recover. With the economy in the dumps, societal problems have hounded the country.

Schooling children from Metro Manila pose for a photo while on recess
Schooling children from Metro Manila pose for a photo while on recess

The Education sector, which according to the Philippine Constitution, should have the highest budgetary allocation has been given a measly 10-17% of the total budget until the year 2010. It is only in 2011 when the government allocated a budget a little higher than in 2010. As a result, public schools are understaffed, ill-equipped and rarely repaired and rehabilitated.

In Metro Manila, small classrooms filled with standing students and students sitting on floors is the norm due to the high volume of pupils enrolling every academic year (June of every year). With the larger number of enrolled students per grade level, public schools in Metro Manila are left with no choice but to increase the number of students per class and shorten class hours to accommodate all students. In Metro Manila, an average grade level has 250-300 students divided into four sections with an average of 60-70 students who study for only four (4) hours a day. In rural provinces, overcrowding is not the biggest problem as each section only has an average of 30-35 students. The biggest problem is the lack of textbooks, school materials and school facilities.

An HBI Area volunteer from Metro Manila tends to her son who suffers from cerebral palsy
An HBI Area volunteer from Metro Manila tends to her son who suffers from cerebral palsy

With regards to health issues,  Filipinos continue to dream for a universal health care program wherein everybody would have access to basic health care through the enrollment of every Filipino to PhilHealth, the national health insurance program. The biggest hurdle to making universal health care possible is the fact the PhilHealth might go bankrupt in the next two years if the government fails to pay its 19.2 Billion Peso debt to the agency.

Small women entrepreneurs abound in Metro Manila slums in an effort to augment their family's income
Small women entrepreneurs abound in Metro Manila slums in an effort to augment their family’s income

The Philippines has a labor force of approximately 39.81 million Filipinos in 2011. Majority of these working Filipinos are earning far below the approved minimum wages and usually do not have medical benefits and social security. The Philippines’ economy is further dampened by the 2012 “Ease of Doing Business” Index which gave the Philippines a 136 rank in Ease of Doing Business  – and where Syria, Kosovo, Bangladesh and Nigeria fared better than the Philippines. Because of this, foreign investments which brings jobs is few and far in between. No wonder that as of 2012, the country is experiencing a 34.4% adult unemployment rate – the highest since 2009’s 34.2%.

With just these said, it is already quite obvious where the Philippines got its Sick Man of Asia moniker.