RP Governance Scores Improve But Most Marks Still Lag Regional Averages

Philippine governance scores have improved but overall quality remains below regional averages, a new World Bank report showed.

The government, however, welcomed the bank’s 2009 update – using 2008 data – of its Worldwide Governance Indicators, saying it validated continuing efforts to implement reforms.

Representatives of several business groups had a different opinion, raising concerns about the administration’s commitment.

“The good news is that some countries are recognizing and responding to governance challenges, and are showing strong improvements that reflect concerted efforts by political leaders, policymakers, civil society, and the private sector,” World Bank Development Research Group lead economist Aart Kraay in a statement.

The Multilateral lender recognized that countries still had a lot to work on.

“The updated World Governance Indicators show that current governance standards have plenty of room for improvement in many industrialized countries and emerging economies,” it said.

Out of six Measures of Governance, the Philippines posted improvements in four – control of corruption, rule of law, regulatory quality, and political stability – while scoring worse in terms of government effectiveness and voice and accountability.

Almost all marks, however, were lower than averages for the East Asian region, except for those in government effectiveness and regulatory quality.

Asked to comment on the World Bank update, Presidential Spokesperson Cerge M. Remonde said “that only goes to prove that since the World Bank dubbed the Philippines as the most corrupt country in Asia, we have been making progress.”

The score for control of corruption, or the extent to which public power is exercised for private gain, improved to 26.1% last year from 22.2% in 2007.

The score, however, is significantly lower than the 45.1% average for the region.

In terms of the rule of law – the extent to which agents have confidence in and abide by the rules of society, including the quality of property rights, the police, and the courts, as well as the risk of crime – the country’s score was a higher 39.7%, from 33.8% in 2007.

But it was well below the regional average of 52.9%.

Regulatory quality or the government’s ability provides sound policies and regulations that enable and promote private sector development, improved to 51.7% from 50.5%.

In this instance the Philippines’ score was higher than the 42.1% regional average.
Government effectiveness, which measures the quality of public service, the capacity of civil service and its independence from political pressures, fell to 55% from 56.4%.

The score, however, was higher than the regional average of 46.5%.

For voice and accountability – the extent to which a country’s citizens are able to participate in selecting their government, as well as freedom of expression, association, and the press – the score worsened to 41.3% from 43.3%.

This was below the regional average of 49.9%.

The Philippines’ scored the worst in terms of political stability, where it notched just 10.5%, albeit a slight gain from 10.1% previously.

The mark, again, was well below the regional average of 59.4%. 
The World Bank scores are a summary of per-country rankings provided by international research firms, think tanks, nongovernmental organizations, and survey institutes around the world.

World Bank country director Bert Hofman told BusinessWorld the institution was “supporting better governance as it yields better development outcomes and improves services to the poor.”

“The World Bank’s new Assistance Strategy for the Philippines emphasizes governance as [a] crosscutting theme and we’ll continue to support the authorities in their efforts to increase transparency, accountability and participation,” he added.

European Chamber of  Commerce of the Philippines Executive Vice-President Henry J. Schumacher, in an interview, said. “I think the Philippines should be at least at par with its neighbors in the region.”

“The government has to be serious about making that commitment,” he added.

Hong Kong, for comparison, posted a government effectiveness score of 95%. It also scored a 100% for Regulatory Quality. The government effectiveness score of Malaysia was also one of the highest in the world at 84%. Its political stability mark was 50%.

The Makati Business Club (MBC), meanwhile, called the Philippines’ scores “disappointing.”

MBC Executive Director. Alberto A. Lim claimed the improvement in the Philippines’ control of corruption score could simply be attributed to the lack of bad news, not the presence of good reports.

“We are not really making any progress. The absence of scandals does not mean progress, just like the absence of fighting does not mean peace,” Mr. Lim said.