Sunday, 18 January 2009

Manila sees 4.7% growth in 2009

AFP with Joyce Pangco Pañares
The Manila Standard

ECONOMIC growth of 4.7 percent in the Philippines is possible this year as long as the government spends money to get it through the global turmoil, an official said yesterday.

The Philippines posted about 4.6-percent growth in 2008 despite high oil and rice prices the world credit crisis, Economic Planning Secretary Ralph Recto said.

This year, the economy is projected to grow by between 3.7 and 4.7 percent.

“If we do the plan, we can hit the higher end of the [growth] range,” Recto said at a business forum on economic prospects.

President Arroyo has asked Congress to approve a P300-billion stimulus package to help the Philippines spend its way out of the downturn.

Recto and other economic aides said the country was weathering the global crisis well, with surpluses in the balance of payments and gross international reserves, and with remittances from overseas workers growing.

The banking system remained secure and inflation was going down as the price of fuel and food also fell, the officials remarked.

The government plan for sustaining growth this year includes large-scale public spending in the first half of the year, particularly on infrastructure and social services.

Recto said there would be P150 billion in public investment this year alone, mostly in the first half, so the money could trickle down faster.

Finance Secretary Margarito Teves said revenue collection efforts would be stepped up, with a crackdown on tax evaders and smugglers, while improving the efficiency of the Internal Revenue and Customs bureaus.

Trade Secretary Peter Favila said that despite the crisis, which has seen exports in the key electronics sector plunge, food and marine product shipments as well as investment in outsourced businesses were still growing.

Citibank country manager Sanjiv Vohra said the government’s plan had a great chance of success, adding that compared with other countries, “the Philippines is in a position of strength.”

The International Monetary Fund said the Philippines was “in a better position” to weather the global economic crisis because of the successful implementation of the expanded value-added tax.

“The Philippines today is in a much better position to handle [the global economic crisis] precisely because of the important fiscal and economic reforms,” said outgoing IMF resident representative Reza Baqir.

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