Manila tumbles on global liveability ranking on poor pandemic response

The Philippine capital slid six notches in the world ranking of livable cities following its poor COVID-19 management that led to a prolonged lockdown and delayed prospects for economic recovery. 

Based on the Global Liveability Index 2021 of UK-based The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), Manila ranked 109 out of 140 countries that are most livable in the world.

This is a downgrade from its 2019 ranking of 103rd. The EIU did not conduct the ranking last year due to pandemic constraints.

The pandemic strained the capital’s already poor healthcare system prompting the whole Philippines to have the world’s longest and strictest lockdown.

Based on the index, Manila scored 53.4 out of the perfect score of 100.

Auckland in New Zealand is considered the most livable city in the world. New Zealand as a whole has been a model country in terms of containing the virus since the start of the pandemic.

EIU’s liveability ranking assesses which cities around the world provide the best or the worst living conditions and quantifies the challenges that an individual might encounter in a certain city.

The five categories of stability, healthcare, culture and environment, education and infrastructure are taken into account in getting a ranking. A score of one is considered intolerable and 100 is considered ideal.

For Manila, it scored 64.3 in infrastructure, 60 in stability, and 58.3 in education. It scored low in culture and environment at 45.4.

Its lowest score, however, is in healthcare at 41.7, evident in the constraints experienced during the pandemic especially at the height of surging COVID-19 cases.

The EIU said the pandemic has affected living conditions in many cities as lockdowns have put the healthcare, culture and environment, and education categories under stress.

The latest ranking also assessed stress on healthcare resources and restrictions on local sporting events, theater, classic and modern music concerts, restaurants, bars, coffee shops and nightclubs, and educational institutions.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a heavy toll on global liveability. Cities across the world are now much less livable than they were before the pandemic began, and we’ve seen that regions such as Europe have been hit particularly hard,” EIU Global Liveability head Upasana Dutt said.

“The cities that have risen to the top of the rankings this year are largely the ones that have taken stringent measures to contain the pandemic. The tough lockdown and tight border controls imposed by Asia-Pacific countries such as New Zealand and Australia allowed their societies to re-open earlier and enabled residents to enjoy a lifestyle that looked similar to pre-pandemic life,” she said.

The same cannot be said in Manila, which imposed the longest and strictest lockdowns since the pandemic. Many establishments remain closed and age restrictions in going out are still in place.

Just two months ago, the government reimposed a lockdown in Metro Manila and nearby provinces following a renewed surge in cases.

Meanwhile, with an average score of 68.6, cities in the Asia-Pacific region scored below the average of 73.09 recorded before the pandemic began.

Eight Asia-Pacific cities dominated the top ten including Osaka, Adelaide, Wellington and Tokyo (tied at fourth), Perth, Melbourne and Brisbane amid their strong response to the pandemic.

Even European and Canadian cities have fallen significantly in the rankings, due to the impact of lockdowns. Vienna, previously the world’s most livable city, falls to 12th.

On the other hand, Honolulu is the biggest gainer after it rose 46 notches and ranked 14th after its strong progress in containing the pandemic and rolling out its vaccination program.Damascus remains the world’s least livable city, as the effects of the civil war in Syria continue to take their toll.