By Charmaine A. Tadalan
PHILIPPINE ECONOMIC GROWTH can be expected to have steadied at slightly “above six percent” last quarter, two state economic managers said separately when sought for estimates on January-March gross domestic product (GDP) expansion that will be reported on May 9.
Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto M. Pernia said he expects first-quarter GDP growth at “above six percent” while Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon M. Lopez gave a 6.2-6.4% range.
Philippine GDP has been growing by a slower rate of at least six percent since the fourth quarter of 2017 (6.6%), clocking in at 6.5%, 6.2%, six percent and 6.3% in last year’s first to fourth quarters, respectively. The government last March reduced its 2019 GDP growth target to 6-7% from 7-8% originally in the face of delayed budget enactment, which was slashed by P95.3 billion to P3.662 trillion when it was signed into law four months late in mid-April.
“Lower inflation motivated more spending of people, households and election-related spending,” Mr. Pernia told reporters on the sidelines of the Sustainable Development Goals web site launch in Pasig City on Tuesday.
“The bigger happening was the lowering of the inflation from 6.7% [in September and October last year] to 3.3% [in March] and hopefully even lower.”
Asked if first-quarter growth could have been faster than that of the preceding three months, Mr. Pernia replied: “hopefully, yes.”
On Monday, Mr. Lopez said he chose to be “conservative” in his first-quarter GDP growth expectation.
“I’ll be conservative, I think… close to maybe 6.2-6.4%,” Mr. Lopez told BusinessWorld on the sidelines of a Rice Traders Forum in Intramuros, Manila.
“Maganda naman ang sectors like infrastructure, ‘Build, Build, Build,’ manufacturing [did relatively well],” he said.
“Kaya conservative kasi nga first quarter na-delay ‘yung budget kaya conservative na ‘yung 6.4%”
A senior official of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), which Mr. Pernia heads as director-general, cited the impact of El Niño-induced dry spell among the factors that has begun weighing on growth.
“With respect to agriculture, it’s still the El Niño, but of course that will be mitigated by how well the sector has prepared and we take it has,” NEDA Undersecretary Rosemarie G. Edillon said in a telephone interview on Monday.
“With respect to industry and services [components of GDP], ang naging problema natin was the reenacted budget, pero ang mitigating factor dun is the campaign-related activities [ahead of the May 13 mid-term elections].”