Tuesday, 3 November 2009

My prosperity index

John Mangun
Outside the Box
Business Mirror

From the Irishtimes.com: “ The largest seizure of contraband cigarettes in the history of the state [Ireland] and possibly in Europe was made yesterday on a ship carrying up to 120 million cigarettes which had left the Philippines for Ireland last month.” Now here is the good part: “The cigarettes are thought to have been produced in the Philippines.”

Who says that our export markets are in trouble? The smugglers probably paid local Filipino “entrepreneurs” close to P1 billion to make these cigarettes; most all European brands not sold here. Further, the ship came under surveillance by European law- enforcement authorities as it left the Philippines, which means that our “entrepreneurs” probably collected a reward for turning in the smugglers to the police.

The reason I mention this smuggling episode is that once again, a global survey of countries has the Philippines only at number 55, dropping three places since last year. It is the Legatum Institute report of the Global Prosperity Index.

According to the report, it defines and measures “prosperity as both wealth and well-being, and finds that the most prosperous nations in the world are not necessarily those that have only a high gross domestic product, but are those that also have happy, healthy and free citizens.”

Fair enough I suppose. Nobody really believes that money can make you happy...except the rich and the poor.

However, one of the sub-indexes is “Entrepreneurship and Innovation” where the Philippines placed 41 because, “Despite low R&D expenditure, the Philippines has the largest proportion of ICT and high-tech exports in the world.” And apparently the best-value “fake” cigarettes that can be smuggled in vast quantities to Europe.

While looking at the Legatum Institute website, I came across a link to something that you have to look at. It is the Legatum Institute “Personal Prosperiscope” at www.myprosperity.com where you can rate yourself as if you were one of the countries in the global survey.

Here is my score: “With a total Prosperiscore of 71 percent, your prosperity in comparison to others is prosperous.” Great news. I am prosperous except for the money part; trust me.

But along with the results is an analysis of what helps me be “prosperous,” the “Prosperity Drivers” and also the “Prosperity Restrainers.”

On the drivers side, I live within five kilometers of the sea. And you have been worrying about all those climate-change fanatics! Obviously, rising sea levels is a good thing. Further, “The climate in your country is relatively favorable.” Take that you global-warming wackos!

More drivers include “Your country’s economy is growing relatively rapidly.” I knew that my economic predictions were right. And “You have an interesting job.” I agree. What could be more interesting than talking to you twice a week?

Yet, my “Prosperity Restraints” were a little disturbing. “You are male” was near the top of the list. I always liked being a man. I would not trade places with any woman. I mean, gentlemen, which one of you would want to be a woman and have to cope up with some guy like you? Yet, according to the survey, being a man is keeping me from being more “prosperous.” I am doomed.

“You consider work to be very important.” Now I am confused. I thought my work was a good thing. And yes, it is important; food on the table and all that.

“Inflation in your country is relatively high.” Now I know something is wrong with the survey. Unless this is a future forecast if the Bangko Sentral does not let the peso appreciate and inflation does get too high.

“You consider politics to be very important.” Obviously these people do not understand the Philippines at all. I am not fond of watching PBA. The only other televised spectator sport in the Philippines is politics. Nobody here takes politics seriously, not even the politicians. But politics is very important in the same way watching Darna and Wowowee is very important.

There is also some advice on how to “enhance your prosperity even more.” “You live very close to a major road, which may be convenient, but moving a little further away would improve your prosperity score.” Also, another hindrance to my prosperity is that “You commute to work.” Of course I commute to work. Doesn’t everyone? That’s why I live close to a major road: to make my commute easier and cheaper. I wonder if the people at Legatum Institute live in the real world where people go to work every day.

Their final advice is to “Think about joining a sports or art club.” OK. I have thought about it. And I have firmly decided that I have no intention of joining either kind of club. But I guess thinking about it makes me more prosperous already.

One final sub-index is “Social Capital,” which measures how well people are developing social networks, where the Philippines ranked 81. We should be No.1. After all there are more Facebook users in the Philippines than in any other country. And as we have recently witnessed, “Almost two-thirds claim to have helped strangers over the past month, the fourth-highest rate, worldwide.”

So what’s our problem? Just like me, “Citizens are not highly integrated into their communities through other group membership with less than 15 percent being members of a sports, environmental or arts organizations.”

At the end, all these surveys are silly and useless. How do I know? South Africa, the murder and the AIDS capital of the world, is ranked higher than the Philippines. But South Africans probably all belong to an art club.

PSE stock-market information and technical-analysis tools were provided by CitisecOnline.com Inc. E-mail comments to mangun@email.com.

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