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No overheating despite strong growth, says ADB

The economy is expected to cruise to its high-growth path of over six percent a year without signs of overheating, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) said in the recent release of its Asian Development Outlook 2017 Update.

ADB retained the growth forecasts at 6.5 percent for this year and 6.7 percent next year in the report.

“The concerted effort by the Philippine government to improve public project implementation is bearing fruit as public investment programs help drive continued economic expansion,” ADB country director Richard Bolt said during the launch of the report.

“A strong focus on infrastructure investment and implementation of the tax reform program will see the country continue its growth momentum through 2018,” he added.

ADB said the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) growth is projected to strengthen in the rest of the year and in 2018 as domestic demand is likely to continue to expand in the near term.

Besides strong remittances from overseas Filipinos, household consumption is expected to get a boost from a proposed reduction in personal income tax rates, according to ADB.

It cited a recent Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) survey that showed the consumer outlook for next year to remain favorable while business sentiment is expected to stay optimistic citing buoyant domestic demand and the rollout of public infrastructure projects as among the major positive factors.

Fixed investment is seen to remain upbeat as rising imports of capital goods and sustained expansion in credit to business which rose by 18.8 percent year on year in July, suggest that private investment will maintain solid growth.

Acceleration in public infrastructure investment will improve the country’s investment climate, it added.

It added that concerted government efforts to improve budget execution in terms of project preparation and implementation, procurement, and financial management systems should help ensure that the budget and public investment programs are implemented effectively and on time.

“There is already some evidence that this is occurring. For example, in the first seven months of 2017, both total public spending and public infrastructure investment were on track to achieve their full year targets. This improves on earlier years when actual public expenditures fell short of original budget targets,” it said.

It noted that in the proposed budget for 2018, public spending is 12.4 percent higher than the 2017 budget, boosting allocations for infrastructure and social programs. Government infrastructure development focuses on national roads, railways, ports, health-care facilities, school buildings, and agricultural works.

It said the government has begun implementing an ambitious infrastructure development program called “Build Build Build,” under which public infrastructure spending is targeted to increase from less than the equivalent of three percent of GDP during 2010 to 2016 to 5.3 percent this year, 6.3 percent next year, and 7.4 percent by 2022..

The estimated total funding requirement for the infrastructure program is $160 billion to $180 billion between 2017 and 2022, it added.

“To help finance higher public investment, the government is proposing comprehensive tax reform. The first package of the tax reform program, likely to be approved in late 2017, includes proposals to raise excise taxes on automobiles and petroleum products and to broaden the base for the value-added tax by eliminating a number of exemptions, while reducing personal income tax rates,” it said.

The ADB added the expected net increase in revenue from these reforms, together with some measures to improve tax administration, will support infrastructure and social spending programs. LUIS LEONCIO

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