The Real Meaning of Economic Development

I recently watched a local debate that tackled the controversial Reproductive Health (RH) Bill. The debaters were comprised of politicians, government officials, medical professionals and famous personalities who have bravely expressed their opinions on the issue.

First and foremost, a debate should be a professional discourse of opinions and points of views. However, as expected, the debate emerged as a personal and selfish showcase of debaters’ conceitedness. I will not further criticize the format and the chaotic approach of the debate. I would rather focus my attention to some politicians, whom I believe should be given a crash course in Economics and Statistics.

On the course of the debate, the indicators of population and poverty were discussed. This politician apparently does not even know where to obtain statistics on Philippine population. This politician was citing WHO as a source of his population and growth rate statistics. No offense meant to WHO, but I think this politician needs a refresher course in Economics and Statistics.

All population records and statistics in the Philippines are obtained from the National Statistics Office (NSO). This government office collect, process and generate reports contaning national and regional population statistics. It’s the NSO, and not the WHO, that is authorized to collect and generate all population statistics.

Mr. Politician’s stupidity further manifested when he compared the Philippines to Japan and Germany. Mr. Politician claims that Japan and Germany are experiencing higher population growth rates, yet they remain to be developed and progressive. He wanted to establish the idea that population is not a hindrance to development.

Growth rate measures the rate of increase. However, directly comparing growth rates of countries with different degrees of population is deceiving and incorrect. If the Philippines, Japan and Germany have more or less equal population, then their growth rates can be compared. Japan’s population is around 127 million, Germany has around 82 million while the Philippines has 88,574 million people. The population growth rate of Germany and Philippines should not obviously be compared with Japan. Japan has a larger population and its growth rate would obviously entail either higher or lower changes in population.

When Mr. Politician compared the population growth rate of Philippines to Japan, it was like directly comparing schools with equal passing rates but with different number of examinees. To further illustrate the case, assume two schools who obtained a 60% passing rate. School A has a total of 100 examinees while School B has only 20 examinees. At 60% passing rate, School A has 60 passers while School B has 12 passers. Is it fair to compare School A and School B? The answer is of course NO! The two schools have different number of examinees or population base. Such is the case for Philippines and Japan. We can’t directly compare population growth rates of two countries, unless they have the same level of population OVER THE PAST YEARS.

How could these politicians dare talk about “development” when they don’t even know the right indicators of development. Population density is not a measure of economic development. The two are actually biased indicators.

Population density measures the number of people per square kilometer of land. The population of a particular country is simply divided to its total land area. Land in the Philippines is not equally distributed. The greater fraction is enjoyed by the landlords or even the families of these politicians. The remaining pieces are shared by the low to middle income earners. So why use Population Density as a measure of development? Are we assuming that land in the Philippines is equally distributed?

The measure of a country’s level of Economic Development is not observed on a single biased variable. Economic Development is a broad and holistic indicator. It is similar to defining what makes a healthy human being. A healthy human being is not merely observed on the proportionality of his weight and height. It entails determining his physical, emotional and mental state.

Economic Development does not simply mean having a stable population and an increase in the national income or Gross Domestic Product.  Economic Development means every children receives education (high Cohort Survival Rates), every member of the economy is employed (lower unemployment rates), every member of the populace is healthy (low mortality rate, high life expectancy, low incidence of diseases), good roads and infrastructures are provided in every town, lesser environmental related problems, the prices of goods and services are stable (no extreme inflation or deflation is observed), the defense and armed forces are capable and fully equipped to protect the country, the crimes rates are low, every family owns a decent home, the government leaders are united, and the economy manifests sustainable growth and development in the succeeding years. In short, a country is said to be developed if it exhibits a place where the quality of life and welfare of every citizen is exceptional.

The next time these intelligent politicians will lecture about population and the measures of economic development, I hope they do some real and serious research. Please stop your noise. You all sound like useless empty cans.


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