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PH to join upper middle income economies by 2019: NEDA

The Philippines can join the ranks of upper middle income economies as early as end-2019 or two years ahead of target, the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) said Tuesday. This is if the economy manages to sustain its brisk expansion due to higher infrastructure spending and other growth drivers.

“Actually, the target for PDP (Philippine Development Plan) is that we will be an upper middle country by 2022, but we think we will get to that status much, much earlier,” NEDA Undersecretary Rosemarie Edillon said in a media briefing on the 2017 Socioeconomic Report (SER). This makes NEDA optimistic that the Philippines can reach high income status by 2040, she added. "The challenge is making sure that this growth is really inclusive,” she explained.

Edillon expressed confidence the country can breach the USD4,100 gross national income per capita as early as next year, to enable it achieve an upper middle income country status. “The performance of the economy last year enabled our gross national income per capita to increase by 6.5 percent and that’s really a very high growth path,” she noted.

The Philippines had already an income per capita of USD3,500 in 2016, according to World Bank (WB) data. The economy expanded 6.7 percent last year, making the Philippines still one of the fastest-growing economies in Asia.

“We are looking at several growth drivers this year. We have government infrastructure program and this will really propel our economic growth even faster so that we will reach that upper middle income status,” she said.

The NEDA official said the government’s “Build, Build, Build” program creates direct employment in the construction and infrastructure program, as well as on ancillary services. “We need to address our infrastructure bottlenecks, which are our capacity constraints. So we need to improve our ports, our airports or connectivity. If you are able to move that frontier to extend it, then we can accommodate higher growth,” she explained further.

NEDA is also banking on increased activities in manufacturing propelling the country’s economic growth. “It will still be the manufacturing sector and we are hoping that this will come by way of innovations. We also want tourism,” Edillon added.

Meanwhile, the SER highlights the country’s socioeconomic gains achieved thus far, the priority strategies in 2018 and 2019 to guide the various government agencies, and policy directions in the next two years.

Leslie Gatpolintan / PNA