MEAL Development A La Carte


I bet preparing meals in a 5 star restaurant is like working for sustainable development agencies. Master Chefs of Michelin Star caliber are the Chief of Party or Executive Directors of Government Agencies, International Non Government Organizations, and Multilateral Development Banks that lead top tier staff that specialize in different fields of development. This one uses a recipe as a guide like that of a program plan, or measuring cups and weights to quantify the ingredients needed like that of development indicators. To measure quantifiably qualitative indicators of development is a difficult task, but one that is necessary that would aid in the movement of direct action towards a clear sustainable development goal.


Understanding what we mean by development, indicators, and why an indicator is important to the context of this discussion through examples and a brief note on each. This paper also attempts to open the discourse on the different development indicators the Government of the Philippines uses in monitoring its national socio-economic development and other indicators in following international commitments.


Discussions about the many faces of development can standalone on its own essay. But for our purpose, let us consider the term, development, in continuing with our a la carte analogy in the beginning, as one whole Blueberry Cheesecake. To understand what development means in the simplest term is to look at it both quantitatively and qualitatively. Quantitatively we look at a Blueberry Cheesecake through its ingredients. We ask, how many cups of flour? How spoons of sugar? How many liters of water? How many cans of Blueberry? How many bars of white cheese? Etc. The list goes on, and varies depending on one’s taste and style. The same can be said of creating quantitative development indicators to represent changes in social and economic growth that an agency or nation wishes to monitor. We ask the basics of who, where, what, when, and where to capture data for a Monitoring, Evaluation, Accountability, and Learning System. A MEAL is necessary nowadays for data management and informed planning and decision making. On the other side of quantitative measures is measuring the essence of changes in growth, it answers the why and sometimes the how of development. This is the qualitative indicator. In cheesecakes, this is the aesthetic sensation that one feels from the craving, to the first bite, and the after taste full of sugar happiness. Basically, looking at development qualitatively monitors positive or negative impacts of why and how policies, programs, plans, and activities influence or not influence changes in human behavior or in health metrics. By bringing together quantitative and qualitative features we get to appreciate the whole piece of the development Blueberry Cheesecake.


I hope I had already stimulated your appetite for some more talk about development indicators later.

Got Scale?


In a country paper presented during the UN Workshop on Development Indicators for the ASEAN Counties, Ms. Teresita Bascos-Deveza highlighted the different Philippine Development Indicators (Bascos-Deveza, 2001) to measure social and economic development concluded “the development of social indicators poses a big challenge to the statistical system. We may be able to identify a set of core development indicators which may even consist of more social than economic indicators but in actual monitoring of national development we may miss out on the social aspect simply because the available social figures remain unchanged for a long period of time as compared to the high frequency economic data that is both dynamic and rigorous.” To understand the situation of how new statistics and data systems used by the GPH, we will briefly discuss each as presented in the country paper as follows:

“A. Philippine Minimum National Social Data Set (PMNSDS) is a core set of 15 indicators consisting of six data items in the area of population and development, four measuring absolute poverty, four measuring productive employment and unemployment and one general measure of population disaggregated by sex and age. The PMNSDS is now called the Statistical Indicators on Philippine Development (StatDev) which will be discussed later.

  1. Core Gender and Development Indicator System (CORE GAD) consists of 20 core indicators for monitoring the outputs and impact of the Philippine Plan for Gender Responsive Development and the Beijing Platform for Action. The indicators were selected based on the statistical requirements of the core GAD data framework at the macro level.
  2. Human Development Index (HDI) measures how well a country has performed, not only in terms of real income growth, but also in terms of social indicators of people’s ability to lead a long and healthy life, to acquire knowledge and skills, and to have access to the resources needed to afford a decent standard of living. The HDI can be used as basis for prioritizing government development programs. HDI Indicators: Human Development Index, Life Expectancy Index, Real per Capita Income Index, and Education Index.
  3. Poverty Statistics provides estimates of thresholds and incidence of poverty and food subsistence in the country. Estimates on the magnitude of poor families, food subsistence and poverty incidence are computed and the national and at the regional & provincial level…Poverty statistics are key indicators of a real social and economic development.
  4. Philippine National Health Accounts (PNHA) covers expenditures on goods and services for the preventive, curative, therapeutic and rehabilitative care of the human population in a given year for the country as a whole.
  5. Statistics on Violence Against Women and Children (VAWC) are based from reported cases of violence against women and child abuse using police records, government social services and concerned non-government organizations. The statistics includes the number of physical and sexual abuse victims who reported to the police or availed of social support and services, demographics of victims and perpetrators, relation of victim to the perpetrator, place and time of occurrence.
  6. Philippine Environment and Natural Resources Accounting (PEENRA) is a system that tracks changes in the quantity as well as in the quality of natural resources over a specified period of time. These changes are estimated both in physical and monetary terms.
  7. Foreign Investment Information System (FIIS) consists of integrated foreign investment data reported to the Central Bank, Board of Investments, Securities and Exchange Commission, etc…. FDI statistics are important indicators of industry growth, employment, political, and economic confidence on the country’s stability.
  8. Leading Economic Indicator System (LEIS) is based on the empirical observation that there are economic series or indicators which move up or down ahead of actual expansion or contraction of the economy.
  9. Standards for Data Dissemination System (SDDS) consist of economic and financial data of the Philippines prescribed by the IMF.”


Furthermore, the United Nations Development Program in the Philippines reported in their 2013 Human Development Report for the Philippines the different indicators they used to monitor the performance of countries at the global level. (Explanatory note on 2013 HDR Composite Indices, 2013) This said, “The Human Development Index, is a summary measure for assessing long-term progress in three basic dimensions of human development: a long and healthy life, access to knowledge, and a decent standard of living.” Also, the report mentioned that the HDI value of the Philippines for 2012 positioned the country at 114 out of 187 countries and territories. The country also increased its life expectancy at birth by 5.8 years between 1980 and 2012, while the mean years of schooling increased by 2.8 years and expected years of schooling increased by 1.3 years. The GNI per capita of the Philippines shows an uptrend since the 1980s albeit lower than neighboring Thailand and Indonesia, as well as the regional average of East Asia and the Pacific. Important to take away from the report was the data analysis from Inequality-adjusted HDI which takes “into account inequality in all three dimensions of the HDI by discounting each dimension’s average value according to its level of inequality. The HDI can be viewed as an index of potential human development and the IHDI as an index of actual human development.” This insight from the report is important to the users of this data since, getting the ‘actual’ or real index of human development would give policy makers, decision makers, and field implementers an informed and data driven choice. Take for example the Gender Inequality Index (GII) found also in the HDR report, the data mentioned that 22.1 percent of seats in the parliament are occupied by women, which is higher than the East Asia and the Pacific and Medium HDI rates. Females also in the Philippines have more in population that finish with at least secondary education compared to other counterparts in the region, however; there is a disparity in the labor force participation rate which is lower across the region and the regional average. These numbers show us the key demographic areas to focus policy towards the improvement of certain sectors. Lastly, Development Indicators would not be sufficient if it does not factor in the Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI). It “Identifies multiple deprivations in the same households in education, health and standard of living…It shows that income poverty only tells part of the story.”


Development Indicators are also useful in forming policy recommendations for improving current conditions. In a World Bank Philippine Development Report, it devoted a section on “What went wrong in the Philippines”. It provided structural transformation and economic development reforms.  (World Bank Philippines Office, 2013) Paragraph 112. “With the right policy framework supportive of agriculture and manufacturing, the Philippines can expect to see a pattern of structural transformation that is more in line with the experience of its successful East Asian neighbors.” This example of a policy recommendation is grounded upon development indicators that were analyzed since the first time nation-states started organizing them.


Philippines, where you at?


Earlier it was mentioned that the GPH has StatDev, the Statistical Indicators on Philippine Development, updated by the Philippine Statistics Authority. “It is an instrument formulated and maintained by the PSA to strengthen the planning system by providing the means by which economic progress and social change can be monitored and measured more effectively. Specifically, the StatDev is a statistical indicator system to monitor the achievement of the economic and social development goals set forth in the Philippine Development Plan (PDP). Thus, the StatDev framework is necessarily congruent with the current PDP and is revised each time a new plan is formulated.” (Philippine Statistics Authority, 2014) There are nine chapters or sectors that are rated performances from Poor, Average, and Good. See link for details on the bibliography section. As of 2014, 63 indicators were marked as Good, 32 marked as average, and 56 poor marked indicators. The following Chapter/Sectors are Macroeconomy; Competitive Industry and Services; Competitive and Sustainable Agriculture and Fisheries Sectors; Accelerating Infrastructure Development; Towards a Dynamic and Resilient Financial System; Good Governance and the Rule of Law; Social Development; Peace and Security; Conservation, Protection, and Rehabilitation of Environment and Natural Resources. “In terms of overall performance, two of the nine PDP chapters/sectors (macroeconomy and competitive industry and services), had at least 60 percent of its indicators exhibiting good probabilities of achieving the PDP target by 2016.”

Sustainable Development Goals


Recently, the world agreed to commit to the seventeen new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to replace the Millennium Development Goals. The Philippines is a party to these new SDGs. These goals provide focus for all stakeholders working for sustainable development. It created clusters where likeminded organizations could work in a concerted effort to accomplish their objectives. (United Nations) Listing these goals are following: 1. End Poverty in all its forms everywhere. 2. End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture. 3. Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages. 4. Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all. 5. Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls. 6. Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all. 7. Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all. 8. Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all. 9. Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation. 10. Reduce inequality within and among countries. 11. Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable. 12. Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns. 13. Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts. 14. Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development. 15. Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss.16. Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels. 17. Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development. For details on the indicators for each goal, refer to the link on the reference section.


The SDGs are not only words of a vision for a better tomorrow, but also; a challenge to take action in making them reality. The goals are now in detail compared to the previous Millennium Development Goals. Hopefully these detailed goals would move governments and other stakeholders to a clear direction.


What are they good for?


Indicators are only good as the people that gather data, use, and act on them. Action, intelligent informed action; this is what indicators are good for. They help us manage phenomena on what we would not normally see through direct observation. By using the data that indicators show decision makers, we can make more informed decisions that can positively affect the community towards sustainable development.






Bascos-Deveza, T. (2001). Philippine Development Indicators. Manila.

(2013). Explanatory note on 2013 HDR Composite Indices. United Nations Development Program, Philippines.

Philippine Statistics Authority. (2014). Statistical Indicators on Philippine Development. Retrieved November 19, 2015, from Philippine Statistics Authority:

United Nations. (n.d.). Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform. Retrieved November 19, 2015, from

World Bank Philippines Office. (2013). Philippine Development Report: Creating More and Better Jobs. East Asia and Pacific Region.



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