The Political Economy of Gross Domestic Product Accounting and the Philippine Case

Karl Marx in his “Critique of the Gotha Program”, a study of how a socialist society should be constructed introduced his concept of total social product(TSP) or the total proceeds produced from labour in a particular year. It must be noted that Marx is talking about a society where capitalism has been abolished and the means of production, factories, transport, communication facilities, etc. are now cooperatively owned by society or have been nationalized. Thus, if there is ever a market in this society, still relying on the determination of prices by supply and demand, it is closely regulated by organizations of the people(as in Cuba’s people power committee). In place of relying on the so-called law of supply and demand, prices of goods and services may be measured by their work points with equivalent monetary units and production will be geared to the needs of the people(how many schools will be constructed in a particular year, production quota for food to provide the population with healthful nutrients, houses still to be constructed for those without homes, activities for the cultural development of the people, etc.). It is vitally important to have a Socio- Economic Planning Body for this society together with its subsidiary planning committees in city, municipal, town and barrio levels. With such socio-economic planning entities, production of goods and the provisions of other social services, therefore, are not left to the whims of an unregulated market, where demand is basically determined by the rich classes and which may cause economic crises as in so-called free market capitalist societies. In this society, according to Marx, a portion of TSP would be allocated to cover for replacement of the means of production used up the previous year, another portion for expansion of production and lastly, reserve or insurance funds to provide against accident, dislocations, caused by natural calamities, etc. Such deductions are an economic necessity, Marx writes, and “their magnitude is to be determined according to available means and forces, and partly by computation of probabilities”. There must also be a part of the social product intended for consumption to cover the general costs of administration not belonging to production, funds for social services such as schools, health, etc. and funds for those unable to work, etc, or what is now considered as social welfare relief program. Marx pointed out that funds for social services for all citizens must gradually increase as TSP rises.

After all the deductions mentioned above, the remainder of TSP must be allocated for increasing the wages and salaries of all members of society. Thus, every working person in society is motivated to work to make TSP grow to concomitantly increase the allocation of social services to all and to increase their individual wages and salaries. The principle of the development of all as the condition for the development of each is then realized in such a scheme of socio-economic development.

Other current alternative measures of social development, not assuming the re-structuring of society to eliminate the control of the upper propertied classes over the productive activities of society and consequently on the work and lives of the other classes, are the Physical Quality of Life Index (PQLI), the International Human Suffering Index (HSI) and the more well-known Human Development Index(HDI) introduced by the United Nations Development Program. The PQLI and the HSI were forerunners of the UN HDI, the first crafted by the Overseas Development Council and the second by the Population Crisis Committee in 1987. The PQLI presents three basic indicators of social well-being, infant mortality, life expectancy at age one and basic literacy. For each indicator, a country’s performance is rated on a scale from 0(worst possible performance) to 100(best possible performance). A simple average of the three indicators then gives the country’s PQLI. The HSI, on the other hand, adopts ten indicators to measure levels of social well-being, life expectancy (years), daily calorie supply per capita, access to clean drinking wager(%), infant immunization(%), secondary school enrollment(%), GNP per capita($), inflation rate(% per year), telephones per capita, political freedom(0-10), civil rights(0-10). For each indicator, a score of 0(most favorable) to 10(least favorable) is assigned. The ten scaled values are then added to obtain the nation’s HSI. HSI has been criticized for its arbitrary choice of indicators of social well being. For instance, it assigns an arbitrarily perfect score of 0 to an inflation rate less than 4% a year, but 1% score for 4.1% rate of inflation. Another conceptual difficulty of HSI is while clean drinking water, for example, promotes good health, high life expectancy is on the other hand a result of good health.

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