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By Ian Nicolas P. Cigaral

Filipino optimism deteriorates

Posted on May 17, 2017

OPTIMISM over the quality of life weakened in the first quarter to its worst level since September 2015, while fewer people expect the economy to get better in the next 12 months, the Social Weather Stations (SWS) said in its latest report.

The newest SWS survey showed declines in both metrics the pollster used to gauge trends in personal quality of life and optimism over economic prospects for a horizon of 12 months, even as it showed that, on the whole, the number of those who said they are better off now than they were in the past year continued to outnumber those who said they’re worse off.

Despite the erosion in optimism, SWS classed the results as “very high,” the best score in its six-point scale, and where they have been since mid-2014, or the twilight years of the previous Aquino government.

For the survey, SWS interviewed 1,200 adults nationwide from March 25 to 28. The latest poll has sampling error margins of 3% for quarterly national percentages, 4% for Balance Luzon, and 6% each for Metro Manila, Visayas and Mindanao.

At least two analysts said that despite the less sanguine results, many Filipinos still believe that President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s administration can still raise their quality of life.

Forty-three percent of those surveyed said they expect their personal quality of life to improve in the next 12 months (“Optimists”), while 6% expect it to get worse (“Pessimists”) -- yielding a net personal optimism score of +36, classified by SWS as “very high.”

That’s the lowest net optimism score since September 2015’s +33. The December 2016 poll put net personal optimism at +45, also “very high.”

“Before this, net personal optimism had been at +40 and above for five consecutive quarters,” SWS said.

Readings across geographical areas remained in the “very high” territory despite significant declines particularly in Mr. Duterte’s home region of Mindanao -- where the net optimism score fell 22 points to +32 from December’s +54.

Net personal optimism readings likewise stayed “very high” in all socioeconomic classes except in class E, where it plunged by one grade to “high” +29 from “very high” +46 after giving up 17 points.

The March 2017 survey also found that 47% were optimistic that the general Philippine economy next year would get better, and 9% felt it would deteriorate.

March’s reading yielded a net optimism score of “very high” +38 that was five points lower than the also “very high” +43 in the previous quarter.

“In the case of Net Optimism about the Economy, the most common answers, historically speaking, have been highly negative,” SWS noted in its report, which classifies scores of -30 and below as “very low”; -20 to -29 as “low”; -10 to -19 as “mediocre,” -9 to zero as “fair” because “a slightly negative score is already better than normal”; +1 to +9 as “high”; and at least +10 as “very high.”

Net optimism about the economy stayed “very high” across geographical areas and socioeconomic classes.

University of Asia and the Pacific Senior Economist Cid L. Terosa attributed the steady “very high” optimism to “perceivable or concrete results with regard to peace and order, jobs, investments, and business and economic opportunities.”

“Also, the economy continues to sustain remarkable economic growth rates in a low inflation environment,” Mr. Terosa added.

On the change in personal quality of life compared to twelve months ago, SWS found 35% of respondents saying their lives improved (“Gainers”), while 19% said they’re worse off (“Losers”) -- garnering a net gainers score of “very high” +16, unchanged from the December survey.

“This is the eleventh time it has been positive since the series began in April 1983, and has been above +10 for three consecutive quarters since September 2016,” SWS said in its report.

The SWS uses the following grading system for net gainers and net optimism: scores of at least +30 are classified as “very high”; +20 to +29, “high”; the +10 to +19 range that contains the historical median and mode -- or what is normally expected -- is classified as “fair”; +1 to +9, “mediocre” since this range is below what is normally expected; zero to -- 9, “low”; and, -- 10 and below, “very low.”

Declines in Mindanao and Balance Luzon were offset by increases in Visayas and Metro Manila.

Metro Manila logged a new record-high +26 from the previous record of +20.

Commenting on the latest SWS report, Ramon C. Casiple, executive director at the Institute for Political and Electoral Reform said: “The jury is still out. Expectations are still there for Duterte to deliver on his promises.”

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