Poe, Roxas most credible, Bloomberg poll says

Posted on April 22, 2016

A FIRST-TIME Philippine senator and a former minister endorsed by the current president were selected by analysts as the most credible candidates in next month’s election to run the economy, according to a Bloomberg survey. Both are trailing in opinion polls.

Grace Poe, a senator and adopted daughter of a famous local actor, and former Interior Secretary Manuel A. Roxas II scored the highest support of the five main candidates in a confidence survey of 10 economists. Both ranked ahead of Rodrigo R. Duterte, the firebrand mayor of Davao City who is leading in the latest poll by Pulse Asia Research, Inc. to win the May 9 presidential vote.

While all the contenders are championing reforms started by outgoing President Benigno S. C. Aquino III to boost infrastructure and create more jobs, Ms. Poe and Mr. Roxas are viewed by economists as the most capable of delivering on their promises. At stake is an economy that’s been among the fastest-growing in the world and a stock market that’s more than doubled since Mr. Aquino took office in 2010.

“From a business perspective, the priority is simple: continuity of reforms,” said Jonathan Ravelas, chief strategist at BDO Unibank, Inc. in Manila. “Poe and Roxas are perceived as the most similar to the present administration. It might not be what the popular vote wants.”

Mr. Duterte has won support from locals by transforming Davao from a city battling crime and gangs in the 1980s to one of the nation’s safest. A controversial figure, Mr. Duterte is facing a backlash for comments he made last week joking about the rape of an Australian missionary in 1989.

Mr. Duterte was ranked third on confidence in running the economy, followed by Vice-President Jejomar Binay, who is facing corruption charges. Miriam Defensor-Santiago, a senator who is battling health problems, was rated the lowest. The survey was conducted in late March to early April and respondents were asked to rank candidates from best to worst in steering the economy.

“Rodrigo Duterte is somewhat of an outlier with a limited economic track record,” BMI Research said in a note to clients.

Philippine growth averaged almost 6% in the past five years, the best performance since the 1970s. Mr. Aquino’s policies helped the country win its first-ever investment-grade credit rating, while his campaign to end corruption has yielded better governance scores.

The top economic priorities of the new president should be infrastructure investment, combating corruption and making it easier to do business, according to economists surveyed by Bloomberg.

“Growth of more than 7% or even 8% can only be sustained in the medium term if adequate infrastructure is provided, bottlenecks to doing business eased and structural reforms including tax reform are put in place,” said Emilio Neri, an economist at Bank of the Philippine Islands in Manila. -- Bloomberg