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Philippines to set pace for growth in Asean region, says IMF

By Riza Lozada

The Philippines will remain a leader in economic growth this year in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) region with an estimated gross domestic product (GDP) expansion of 6.6 percent against 5.2 percent in Indonesia; 5.4 percent in Malaysia; 3.7 percent in Thailand, and 6.3 percent in Vietnam, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said.

In its flagship World Economic Outlook (WEO), the IMF said in the Asean-5

economies comprising of Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam, growth is expected to strengthen in 2017 to 5.2 percent (from five percent in April), partly because of stronger-than-expected external demand from China and Europe.

The IMF, in effect, retained its forecast growth for the country this year through the WEO.

“We have retained the forecast as we see continued robust domestic demand driven by investments and consumption, and fiscal policy is supportive of growth,” IMF representative to the Philippines Yongzheng Yang said.

The retention of the forecast was made even if the domestic economy registered a slowdown in the first half of 2017 to 6.4 percent from 6.9 percent a year ago.

In the second quarter alone, GDP decelerated to 6.5 percent from year-ago’s 7.1 percent due to slower expansion of the services sector to 6.1 percent from year-ago’s 8.2 percent and slower growth in public spending.

The second quarter figure, however, is slightly faster than quarter-ago’s 6.4 percent. “We think the growth slowdown in the first half was partly due to a temporary slowdown in public spending and strong base effects from H1 2016,” Yang said.

The IMF, however, cut its 2018 growth projection for the Philippines to 6.7 percent from 6.8 percent previously.

Yang, nonetheless, said “the growth projection of 6.7 percent for 2018 remains one of the fastest growth rates in Asia.”

“It was in line with our current medium-term growth forecast (of 6.8 percent),” he added.

For 2022, the lender forecasts a 6.8 percent growth for the Philippine economy. The Philippine government has set a 6.5-7.5 percent growth target for the country for 2017 and seven to eight percent growth for 2018 until 2022.

The WEO also indicated the global recovery is continuing, and at a faster pace.

“The picture is very different from early last year, when the world economy faced faltering growth and financial market turbulence. We see an accelerating cyclical upswing boosting Europe, China, Japan, and the United States, as well as emerging Asia,” the IMF report added.

The WEO also upgraded its global growth projections to 3.6 percent for this year and 3.7 percent for next, which are in both cases 0.1 percentage point above the IMF’s previous forecasts, and well above 2016’s global growth rate of 3.2 percent, which was the lowest since the global financial crisis.

For 2017, most of the upgrades owe to brighter prospects for the advanced economies, whereas for 2018’s positive revision, emerging market and developing economies play a relatively bigger role, the IMF said.

“Notably, we expect sub-Saharan Africa, where growth in per capita incomes has on average stalled for the past two years, to improve overall in 2018,” it added.

The report said the current global acceleration is also notable because it is broad-based—more so than at any time since the start of this decade.

“This breadth offers a global environment of opportunity for ambitious policies that will support growth and raise economic resilience in the future. Policymakers should seize the moment: the recovery is still incomplete in important respects, and the window for action the current cyclical upswing offers will not be open forever,” it added.

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