NEDA’s ‘Ambisyon’

Warning: The following is based on my own understanding of the presentation. For validation, visit the website of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA).

Call me an idiot for starting a column with a “warning”, but I rather be safe than sorry. Last week, I was in Manila for the Knowledge for Development Community Meeting convened by the World Bank. Part of the two-day program was a presentation by Acting Deputy Director-General Rosemarie G. Edillon on NEDA’s “Ambisyon Natin 2040”. It basically outlines the aspirations, preferences, and confidence levels of young people some two decades from today – whether, in large part, they are confident of a good life ahead of them.

NEDAAmbisyon (correct me if I’m wrong) is a play on two words: “ambition” – which could loosely mean goal or dreams in life – and “mission” – what we set ourselves out to accomplish. So NEDA developed a tool to draw out from some 10,000 young people (around 25 year old) across the county what their views are of their future in terms of employment, savings, housing, etc. NEDA did not go beyond the age mark that would render people two decades from now near-pre-departure, as they thought the older you get, your preferences change – you tend to go slow on your ambitions. Good point.  Of course, when you’ve tired yourself out for the moolah, you reach that point in life where you dump the rat race for the shade of the acacia tree. After all, the Acting Deputy Director-General of NEDA said the results might show lack of vigor, of gusto to really rev the country up to higher heights.

From some of the slides I managed to take a photo of, the following are what I found out.

Of the 10,000 respondents, “an overwhelming majority of Filipinos aspire for a simple and comfortable life.” Only 3.9 per cent desire for the life of the rich, 16.9 Per cent for the “affluent life”. A staggering 79.2 per cent go for a “simple and comfortable life”. But as Acting Deputy Director-General Edillon pointed out: “This is deceivingly simple.”

Asked: “What is a simple and comfortable life?” 61 per cent said it is about owning one car, 61 per cent about having enough money for day-to-day needs, and 61 per cent about owning a medium-sized home (although majority would go for a small home with a big lot, either in a town center or a big city like Manila). As expected, 73 per cent said it is about “earning enough”, with 73 per cent indicating that it is much about having all children obtaining a college education. Pounding on the same simplicity of life, the same survey generated 30 per cent thinking of a simple as relaxing with family and friends, and another 31 per cent about being able to take occasional trips around the country.

In terms of savings, while materialism reeks here and there, a good 83 per cent are optimistic that they can save up enough for their families. Responses from the same respondents on the matter of savings also generate high confidence levels: “I can save money for when I grow old” – 35 per cent “definitely confident; “I can save money for emergency” – 36 per cent “definitely confident”; and “I can save money to buy my own house” – 39 per cent “definitely confident”. On the same variables, the “somewhat confident” comes next, playing within the range of 47 to 60 per cent.

To summarize the slides, majority of the Filipinos are “generally optimistic” about the future. This is good news, compared to polls that paint a grim face on the development prospects of the country. But while NEDA’s presentation offers a glimpse into how young Filipinos are confident about their capability to live a good life, the availability of opportunities that would allow them to achieve all those that they have floated as potential metrics of success is another ballgame in itself. NEDA though pointed out aspects of government service that need to be corrected or improved. “Eradication of corruption”, “fair enforcement of the law” and “fast and easy processes” were ranked as the Top 3. But these are aspects of governance that may not solely be the roadblocks or change agents to materializing the confidence that young Filipinos have on themselves.

As much as the presentation shows promise, it can’t be rightly translated to how young Filipinos are contented with the pace at which development is moving in the country and how reforms are being instituted. There is equal need to operationalize the presentation to penetrate grassroots concerns and come up with multi-sectoral approaches to building up the country.

NEDA has a caveat: for Ambisyon 2040 to be successful, it needs the commitment of four administrations. Good luck!

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