PH Economy ‘Stronger And Getting Stronger'

Subscribe Now February 10, 2013 at 08:48am

President Benigno S. Aquino III’s campaign slogan “Walang Corrupt, Walang Mahirap” is working, the World Bank (WB) representative to the Philippines announced yesterday, saying the government is now regaining the confidence of the global community. Speaking at the Philippines Development Forum (PDF) here, Motoo Konishi, World Bank country director, said government finances are “stronger and getting stronger” on the back of consistent improvements in the country’s economic fundamentals.

“In the last two and a half years, we have seen the economic fundamentals consistently improve. Macroeconomic stability –the low inflation, large current account surpluses, a market-based exchange rate –is now the new ‘normal’ for the Philippines,” Konishi said.

The World Bank official also noted that remittances from overseas Filipinos have continued to grow, while local construction is, likewise, expanding amid all the turmoil around the world, particularly in the US and Europe.

“Perhaps most of all, the nation and the world have confidence in the Aquino administration,” Konishi said.

He also credited the Aquino administration for the “difficult reforms that it has shepherded [that have] sent a strong message” of the government’s seriousness in achieving inclusive growth and its governance agenda.

“We are looking at a new Philippines. The Philippines has demonstrated that strong leadership at the top with a persistent focus on good governance can result in higher growth. Clearly, the President’s campaign slogan ‘Walang Corrupt, Walang Mahirap” (no poverty when there is no corruption) is working,” Konishi said.

If maintained as well as deepened, these reforms hold the promise of inclusive growth that would bring greater good to more people, particularly the poor, he said.

“Achieving this is clearly within reach now more than any time before in the history of the Philippines,” the World Bank official said.

Meanwhile, the US delegation at the PDF also commended the government for its accomplishments in increasing the country’s export growth and foreign direct investment as well as improved global competitiveness rankings.

The US government said that improvement was due in large part to the efforts of President Aquino’s administration to strengthen governance and fight corruption, which have resulted in strong macroeconomic conditions.

The US government also reiterated its commitment to the Philippine government development priorities. President Obama has provided more than $318 million in grants last year, bringing the US total assistance to more than $2.4 billion since 2001.

Aside from the US, the European Union has also noted that the Philippine economy has weathered the global economic and financial crisis better than many economies and is growing relatively fast.

However, the European Union said the eradication of poverty and reaching the medium development goals remain a challenge for the Philippine government.

“Further enhancing the business and investment climate and developing the private sector will be key in achieving inclusive economic growth in a sustainable way and at sufficiently high level,” the European Union said.

But amid the government’s achievements so far, Konishi still reminded the Aquino government about the 10 million Filipinos who are still either unemployed or underemployed.

With 1.1 million new Filipinos entering the labor force annually, the government needs to create a total 14.6 million jobs between now and 2016, he said.

“The domestic job market in the formal, services, manufacturing, industries, and jobs abroad are not enough to absorb so many people getting into the labor force. This means that all other sectors in the economy, particularly agribusinesses and agriculture, must contribute more significantly to address joblessness and reduce poverty,” Konishi said.

He also warned that the need for good jobs that raise real wages and bring people out of poverty is an overwhelming challenge and that there is no simple “magic formula” to address the situation.

Budget and Management Secretary Florencio B. Abad, meanwhile, acknowledged that there is a lot of work to do in solving the country’s problems, particularly in poverty reduction.

But Abad emphasized that the government made remarkable successes in the country’s economy, saying the Philippines is no longer regarded as the “sick man of Asia” but as the “the Asian rising tiger” instead.

Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan also noted that the Philippines has yet to achieve its inclusive growth as there are more needs to be done, particularly in addressing poverty.

However, Balisacan cited that it appears that self-rated poverty and severe hunger are on the decline.

“Given the fiscal space and business confidence, we have the opportunity to accelerate the implementation of development programs to lift the living standard of our people,” Balisacan said.

“To sustain the growth, we need to ensure that economic growth benefits everyone, regardless of location or social status. We need to promote new sources of growth,” he added.

Currently, he said 60 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) is concentrated in three regions in Luzon, adding that the government has yet to tap the full potential of other regions, especially those in Mindanao.

“Hence, our policy priorities must ensure that our people in the rest of Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao benefit from growth. We need to connect these regions to facilitate access to markets and basic services,” he said.


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