The economy grew—so what?

By Mahar Mangahas

A week ago (8/27/2014), Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan was pleased to report that economic growth had accelerated to 6.4 percent/year, adjusted for inflation, in the second quarter of 2014. He touted the Philippines as the second fastest growing economy among major Asian countries, with its growth rate equaling Malaysia’s and topping Indonesia’s 5.1 percent and Thailand’s 0.3 percent.

Some technicalities. How well does economic growth signify betterment of the people’s economic wellbeing? The cited number of 6.4 is specifically the growth rate of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). It is the aggregate of production and also of income—since value-added in production is also value-earned as income—within Philippine domestic territory, including that of foreign entities based in it.

Read on…


  1. Two interesting articles that have the same point, GDP growth means nothing if the nation is not getting more people off the jobless, poverty and hunger lists. Those values remain stubbornly the same, yet the rich get richer. Mangahas suggests Gross National Income and Household Final Consumption Expenditure are better measures at tracking people’s well-being. Azurin has no alternative metrics to suggest, other than the numbers (share) of people in poverty.

    I frankly think it is impossible to get poverty down without GDP going up because the number of babies being born is relentless. So GDP is one good indicator of economic performance. I’d structure another one called National Income Growth Per Baby Born (NIGPBB) to see if things are getting better. Of course the Catholic Church would bitch about this index because the two ways of improving things are to increase income generated or reduce babies born. The point is anyone can bitch about anything if they want, but the better idea is to propose some meaningful ways to increase wealth and how it is eaten . . . er . . . applied.

  2. In my Economics 101 at DLSU, the classic theory of macro-economic development is measured by the total or gross national production in a given period of the country. This quantitative measurement of economic performance by both the private and public sector shows the upward and downward numbers like arrows in a sales chart of a company. It is meaningful to the user if the trend of the arrows are upward. But this does not signify that everybody in the company is happy because the incremental growth is not automatically translated to corresponding benefits of the whole of company or industry simply because the structure of contribution to the growth is not the same. For the public sector, population pressure and an inequitable or onerous taxation are jeopardizing the efficiency of distributive services to maximize benefits to people who have no means of livelihood or marginalized due to lack of jobs or health barred.

    • In financial accounting 101, there is a qualitative tool,which is called as Management accounting, which we apply to achieve a certain goal, a desired business purpose to quantify performance according to business plan. A falling economy is a misnomer if the data are subjectively presented. You just confuse the reader.

      • That was a question to Mr. Mangahas that requires an answer. Mr. Mangahas said “…so what?”, which I took it to mean that a growing economy does not matter to him or to the Filipino people in general and therefore begs the question I asked. You seems to be agreeing with Mr. Mangahas and so now I’m asking you the same question: Do you think the economy going down better for the Philippines and the Filipino people? Or, are you still confused?

        To be more to the point, if a growing economy does not matter, does it follows that a falling economy the better alternative?

    • joji, I have neither the perception of a falling economy nor a subjective evaluation of growing economy but I have asked you a question. If that is your answer to my question, then that really confused me.