Sunday, 5 April 2009

Philippines slogs on to perform Millennium Devt Goals

Rene Q. Bas
Editor in Chief
The Manila Times

If you base your conclusions only on critical reports about the Philippines, you will say we are only slogging on—not marching briskly—to meet our Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

But that is not what the United States’ Millennium Challenge Corp.’s board of directors says. The MCC has promoted the Philippines from the “Threshhold” level of aid beneficiary to “Compact Assistance” Level.

The MDGS are the United Nations’ eight developmental goals that 189 countries, including the Philippines, adopted in 2000. These goals are: (1) Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger. (2) Achieve universal primary education. (3) Promote gender equality and empower women. (4) Reduce child mortality. (5) Improve maternal health. (6) Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases. (7) Ensure environmental sustainability. And (8) Develop a global partnership for development.

To meet goals 1 to 7, a developing (read “poor”) country needs a lot of money.

The United States, working on goal No. 8, created the Millennium Challenge Account in 2002 to help developing nations fund their efforts to meet the MDGs. It founded, with a proper budget legislated by the US Congress, the Millennium Challenge Corp.

America‘s objective is to demonstrate how poverty can be reduced and the MDGs can be reached by poor countries through the right combination of good governance policies, sufficient resources, measurable goals and generous rich-country donors. The donor recipients have to commit themselves to reforms. Both donors and donees hold themselves accountable for results.

As a low-level “Threshold” receiver of MCC aid from America, the Philippines performed well to the point of being eligible for promotion to the higher “Compact” status. The MCC board of directors made that decision to promote us in March 2008 and then affirmed it in December 2008.

“Compact” aid status would secure significantly bigger funding for Philippine development projects.

But then the World Bank report and Philippine Senate hearings on how a cabal of contractors had been rigging the bidding process made global headlines.

All of a sudden a report hit the front pages in January 2009 that the Millennium Challenge Corp. was setting aside its previous decision to upgrade the Philippines.

But the institution Global Integrity Index knew better. It made a statement that “the MCC decision appears largely based on the World Bank Institute’s aggregation of corruption perception surveys, which report a worsening public perception of corruption problems.

“The Global Integrity report on the Philippines [2007, 2006, 2004], which examines the anti-corruption framework rather than public perceptions of corruption, show consistent—though not very good—performance in recent years.”

Global Integrity said that “as we note on the cover of our 2007 report, an overall score change from 2006 to 2007 is not a trend, but reflects the inclusion of a new investigation of state-owned enterprises, an area where the Philippines performs poorly.”

The media, like ABS-CBN, reported that “the head of America’s chief global poverty-fighting arm said indications of worsening corruption in the Philippines is blocking the way to hundreds of millions of dollars in additional help [for the Philippines]. John Danilovich, chief-executive-officer of the Millennium Challenge Corp. [MCC], said they have ‘serious concerns’ with corruption indicators for the Philippines. ‘The drop in performance was in fact very dramatic,’ he told reporters during a briefing at the Foreign Press Center here on Wednesday, January 30.”

Latter events were to show that the MCC had not downgraded us after all. (See related stories “We’ve been eligible since March 2008 for big US aid as ‘Cmpact’ level MCA beneficiary” and “As far as MCA is concerned, Ombudsman is a success story”).

The other day, there was news that the Philippines—along with Switzerland, Costa Rica, Malaysia, Uruguay, Singapore, the Cayman Islands, Monaco, Liechtenstein, Hong Kong and 39 other territories—were criticized by the Organizations for Economic Cooperation and Development as jurisdictions that have committed to internationally agreed tax standard, but have not yet substantially implemented the standard.

Will this make the critics of the Philippines raise a big stink about us being a “tax haven” and therefore deserving of being punished by the MCC?

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