Local happiness index

>> Friday, July 27, 2018

Ike Señeres

It is a known fact that “Gross National Happiness” (GNH) is already being used in many countries as an index to measure the success of a government in the goal of making their citizens happy or happiest, as the case may be. That said, I now would like to suggest that the same GNH index could be modified or shall I say downscaled to make it applicable to the local level, down even to the smallest level of governance. Just in case it is done that way, the local index could then be called “Gross Local Happiness” (GLH) or something like that.
I am leaving some room to the question of what name it should be called because GNH by itself is a bit of a misnomer, and I will tell you why.
Strictly speaking, the name that should have been used should have been “Gross Domestic Happiness” (GDH) and I will also tell you why. As it is supposed to be, “Gross National Product” (GNP) is the measure of the total production of a country, including those produced or earned abroad. Conversely, “Gross Domestic Product” (GDP) is the measure of the total domestic production, sans the overseas production.
That being the case, GDH may be the more applicable measure, because after all, the happiness of overseas nationals would not be the concern of the national government. as it is now however, GNH has gained traction worldwide, and the question of what it really means is moot and academic.
Back to GLH, it appears that if such an index is invented, it could apply to our provincial and municipal levels of government, even down to the village level as I said, if and when we want it. While implementing the GLH index on a nationwide basis might sound like a gargantuan task, it is easy as a pie, simply because all the software tools for data gathering are already available, both via online (internet) means and via cellular (mobile) means.
All told, what this needs (only) is only data gathering and data analysis, the latter being an old science that is now glamorized as “data analytics”. That seems to be what happened to what was known before as lots and lots of data, and now it is called “Big Data”. Needless to say, data analytics could not happen without Big Data.
For so many years now, advocates and academics have been talking about “performance” as the sole criterion for selecting local government officials, hence the dream of having the dominance of the “politics of performance”. Desirable as that may be, that dream would never become a reality, not unless there would be a method or system of measuring the actual delivery of programs and projects, being the true measure of actual performance.
In 1990 however, there emerged the “Community Based Monitoring System” (CBMS), an initiative of the Partnership for Economic Policy (PEP), “for the purpose of providing policy makers and program implementers with a good information base for tracking the impacts of macroeconomic reforms and other policy shocks”. Since then, about 30,000 barangays, 1037 towns, 93 cities and 77 provinces have already gone through the CBMS process.
Generally speaking, it could be said that CBMS generates data that could be the basis for estimating or extrapolating the GLH of a population in a given locality.
For example, since CBMS provides data about access to safe water supply and sanitary toilet facilities, we could more or less surmise whether the local people are happy about their state of access, depending on how much access they have, or how much they are denied the access. It goes without saying, meaning to say that it is profoundly implied that if there is no access or if the rate of access is very low, then there is no delivery of that given set of public services and in other words, there is no performance. Once the data about negative performance comes out and the nonperforming local executives still get re-elected, it would be an indicator that “the politics of patronage” is still prevalent.
In layman terms, it could be said that if the people in a given locality are not happy with their public officials, then they would no longer vote for them when they seek re-election. Pardon the sarcasm, but if a nonperforming local executive still wins a re-election despite his lack of performance and despite the fact that the local people are not happy about their lack of access to certain public services, then there could be other reasons, such as vote buying, command voting or even intimidation. If it already seems that the bad guys are still winning over the good guys in doing their bad things, do not let that bother you, because the more the truth about performance data comes out, the more righteousness will prevail. Yes, it is living in the light that will conquer the darkness. Watch out, because performance will eventually win over patronage.
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