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High economic growth sustainable in 2018: NEDA



The Philippine economy has maintained its position as one of the fastest-growing economies in Asia on robust domestic consumption and government spending, supporting its projected higher growth path over the next few years.

Socioeconomic Planning Secretary and National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Director-General Ernesto Pernia said this year’s economic growth is “very good, spectacular” considering it is post-election year.

“If you look at post-election years in 2015 and then 2011, the growth rates were really low. In that context, it (this year’s growth) is a very good performance. We expect it to be sustainable,” he said.

The Philippine Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grew 6.7 percent in the first three quarters also on the back of the recovery in external demand, boosting the achievement of the government’s full-year growth target of 6.5 to 7.5 percent.

The economy surged 6.9 percent in July to September quarter, making the Philippines the second fastest after Vietnam and ahead of China, India, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand.

“Our macroeconomic fundamentals remain firm and stable. Inflation keep within target, and trade continues to grow. Underemployment rate also declined to its lowest level in 10 years,” said Pernia.

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) upgraded its GDP growth forecasts for the Philippines this and next year on the surge of the government’s infrastructure program.

It raised economic growth forecasts from 6.5 percent to 6.7 percent for 2017, and from 6.7 percent to 6.8 percent for 2018.

It expected the country to remain the fastest growing economy in Southeast Asia.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development ‘s Economic Outlook report for Southeast Asia, China and India, also projected the Philippine GDP growing 6.6 percent this year and averaging 6.4 percent from 2018 to 2022, about 50 basis points higher than 2011 to 2015.

It expected the Philippines to remain the fastest growing economy in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations-5 (ASEAN) this year and through 2022, supported by the government’s infrastructure push and robust domestic private spending.

ASEAN-5 also includes Viet Nam, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand.

2018

The NEDA chief expects government’s spending on infrastructure, exports and good weather will bolster next year’s economic growth.

Pernia said the “Build, Build, Build” program would boost GDP growth, which was expected to increase to 7 to 8 percent.

“We expect to spend more on infrastructure development to help improve regional connectivity and ease the cost of doing business in the country,” he noted.

Six projects, including the PHP37.6 billion worth of new projects, are up for deliberation next year of the NEDA Board chaired by President Rodrigo Duterte.

The three new projects include the Safe Philippines Project, the Bridge Construction Acceleration Project and the acquisition of six marine disaster response helicopters.

The NEDA Board approved PHP1 trillion worth of projects so far this year, including those which would start implementation next year.

These include the Clark International Airport expansion, North-South Railway projects, Metro Manila Subway, first phase of the Mindanao Railway, Cavite Flood Control project and Kaliwa Dam project.

“There are 20 projects already approved both in terms of new and ongoing in terms of adjustments. And then we have six more --three new (projects) and adjustments in three ongoing projects,” said NEDA Asst. Secretary for Investment Programming Jonathan Uy.

The government targets to roll out 12 to 15 more projects in 2018.

In terms of policy, the NEDA expects the implementation of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion Act (TRAIN) to fund government’s infrastructure program, boost revenue-to-GDP ratio and increase the spending capacity of the average working Filipino.

President Duterte last week signed TRAIN, the first package of the government’s proposed Comprehensive Tax Reform Program (CTRP).

With the CTRP, NEDA’s analysis shows that real gross domestic product (GDP) level will be higher by 0.5 to 1.1 percent by year 2022.

“The implementation of TRAIN is essential as it will increase the spending capacity of the average working Filipino, boost revenue-to-GDP ratio and fund government’s infrastructure and human capital investment program,” added Pernia.

Leslie Gatpolintan / PNA