Who can we trust

Here’s a nice article about doubts on whether a trust index can be a reliable tool to measure the level of trust among the various institutions in the Philippines. There is a basic management concept that trust is not given to a person but earned based on his actions. And in a country where public trust is so much a basic issue in good governance, the question is can you measure it if the institution’s actions is so unpredictable? Maybe the index can put more substance by measuring the actions taken by an institution to gauge if it can be trusted based on what it claimed to what was acted. Whatever is the solution, the question of who can we trust (other than God) may be a very personal issue and difficult to measure.

From BusinessWorld Philippines

November 02, 2014

A Philippine trust index?

THE CHURCH is the most trusted among six major socio-political institutions in the country, with 75% of the public saying they trust it “very much.” Of course it is, and ever shall be, world without end, amen. If “The Church” here is specifically the Catholic Church in the Philippines, those percentages would roughly parallel the 75.5 million Filipinos, or roughly 80% of the population who profess Catholicism, with perhaps the underage in percentages revealing ambiguity in perception between what is trust in the institution and what is faith in God. Insh Allah, the Muslim minority might say, in the universal moral tradition of trusting God above all.

It has always been difficult even for sociologists and other scientists to define trust. Nevertheless, social scientists, psychologists, even economists agree that trust can only be measured in terms of a present relationship looking forward to future expected outcomes, where “one party (trustor) is willing to rely on the actions of another party (trustee), taking risk and abandoning control over the actions performed by the trustee.”

The Philippine Trust Index (PTI) for 2014 was presented to the media last week by public relations company EON. It is the third year of the survey, polling two survey groups, the “informed public” (IP) or those who have extraordinary access to mass and social media, and the “general public” (GP) or those who have little or no access to the bare minimum of communication in mass media. The 1,626 respondents from various socioeconomic and educational backgrounds in urban and rural areas all over the country were asked about their trust in six key institutions — the government, the business sector, the media, nongovernment organizations (NGOs), the Church, and academe.

Following the expected increased trust (from 2012) in the Church, which topped the 2014 survey as the most trustworthy with 75% from GP and 66% from IP, academe has the increased trust of 53% of GP and 45% of IP. Media, in 2014 as in 2012, is the third most trusted, with 33% GP and 22% IP trust ratings, respectively.

Within the business sector, the industries of health care, water, information technology, telecommunications, and tourism are most trusted. Least trusted industries are real estate, alcohol and tobacco, and mining. Over 30% of both GP and IP claimed that businesses that give fair salaries and benefits, and implement fair labor practices, are most trustworthy. The ratings for business are higher in urban areas compared to rural areas, the PTI reveals.

The government is still fighting for no. 4 in trustworthiness, although The Office of the President and the Philippine Senate experienced a significant decline in trust ratings from both the general and informed publics compared to 2012. Less than two of 10 in the PTI survey believe that the government is not corrupt. It was clarified in the open forum at the PTI presentation that the survey was conducted at the height of the pork barrel investigations, covered extensively by the media. And in the same setting of the alleged scams, the NGOs were evaluated by the PTI, with only 22% of respondents believing that Philippine NGOs are not corrupt. Both the general and informed publics note that to earn the trust of the people, NGOs should be free from political interest, help those in real need, have competent leaders, provide livelihood, and communicate and listen to their stakeholders’ advocacies.

At the panel discussion after the presentation of PTI results, Dr. Malou Tiquia (University of the Philippines professor and secretary-general of the Association of Political Consultants in Asia) asked to review the survey instrument and study the methodology of the survey. Surely without meaning to revalidate the results, but perhaps for a clearer professional understanding of such, Prof. Tiquia also wanted to determine whether the Filipino (assumedly represented in the random sampling) was speaking in the survey at the level of the individual, the community or the nation.

A question from the floor worried about the determination of the “informed public” and “general public” groups in the sampling. Another panelist, Cora Guidote of SM Investments, pointed out that the ranking is perplexing because “for businesses, the prime motivation is for profit, but for the government and NGOs, the prime motivation is service.” A question from the floor pointed out that aside from (the lack of or less) corruption, which derives from perceptions of honesty and integrity, one of the other major drivers of trust for the government would be safety and security. Perceptions of trust in the military and the police would be critical to the prevalent perception of trust in the country. The EON group immediately took up the challenges from the misgivings voiced by the panelists and the audience, among which would be the further subdivisions of groups under the government in the next survey.

But the point remains, can trust or the perception of trust be really tested and measured? And we have to go back to the sociologists’ and other scientists’ dilemma of how to grasp and record the individual bases and measurements of trust — changes in personal experience within personal relationships can build or destroy trust before trust is even recognized as such. Trust is never static. And, as the scientists say, trust is for the future, not the moving present.

Note that there is no known, or well-known national trust survey among other countries, at least none that are high-profile and well-disseminated in the news or Internet. But surveys abound on quantifiable and measurable aspects of country or global reliability, competitiveness, corruption, transparency and popularity or acceptance.

A nationwide self-rating of the country for the abstract value of trust can be counter-productive to the nation’s struggle precisely to earn that elusive badge of acceptance by its own people — for anything big or small can go wrong at any point which the country will have to collectively address. Perhaps the Philippine Trust Index can be broken into smaller confidence or acceptance (as distinct from trust) indices per institution or per industry, based on scientific methods of stratified and cluster sampling that can produce more representative samples than simpler “blind” sampling methods.

Ultimately, there is only one solution to adversities in life and relationships: In God we trust. Insh Allah.

Amelia H.C. Ylagan is a Doctor of Business Administration from the University of the Philippines.

ahcylagan@yahoo.com

Article location : http://www.bworldonline.com/content.php?section=Opinion&title=A Philippine trust index?&id=97126

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