Tuesday, February 21, 2006


Aside from faulty institutions, the country's economic growth continues to suffer from natural disasters. The recent landslide in Leyte - with massive loss of life and property - is the latest tragedy to command national and global attention.

In 2000 the Centre for Research and Epidemiology of Disasters named the Philippines as the world's most disaster prone country. A major contestant for this dubious disinction is Bangladesh, according to the UNDP (PDF).

There are some interesting statistics on economic loss from disasters (PDF file: bottom of page 1). The most destructive in these terms are the hurricanes hitting the US (Katrina and Rita) just last year, valued at 131 billion. Interestingly but unsurprisingly, economic loss is highest for the developed countries. However loss of life is certainly far greater in developing nations, which aside from having higher populations, tend to maintain population centers in disaster-prone areas, for which mitigating measures are scanty at best. When was the last time a typhoon passed in the country, however minor, without at least one death? These are typically households in makeshift shelters along riverbanks or coasts, who are ill-equipped to fend off floodwaters and heavy winds.

So once more poverty rears its ugly head. While economic growth can by no means prevent disasters, in the long run it can shift the cost from human lives to human commodities. However costly in numerical terms, this would be a very welcome development indeed.

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