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Philippines won’t be ‘Asia’s laggard’—DOF

The Department of Finance (DOF) bucked assertions that the Philippines will be the “laggard in Asia” in a post-pandemic world.

Finance Undersecretary and Chief Economist Gil S. Beltran assured the country’s stamina to endure its marathon towards inclusive and sustainable development after the global pandemic.

Beltran noted that the nation has been laying the grounds for inclusive and sustainable development even before the COVID-19 crisis.

In particular, the finance official cited that infrastructure investments have increased and scaled up, while the conditional cash transfer (CCT) has been institutionalized.

The CCT program had a budget of P89.4 billion in 2018, equivalent to 0.5 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), benefitting more than four-million families or 21 percent of the country’s population—the third largest coverage in the world.

Other important social services were also implemented in recent years to improve health and education systems, like the Universal Health Care (UHC) and Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education, he said.

“National government’s pre-pandemic capital outlay has been above 5 percent of GDP and has only slightly dipped to 4.9 percent of GDP last year,” Beltran said an economic bulletin released on Wednesday, June 2.

“Figures will even be higher if we include PPP [public private partnership], LGU [local government unit], and GOCC [government owned- and controlled-corporation] capital outlays,” he added.

Moreover, Beltran said country’s macro-economic fundamentals remain strong and were enhanced by recent reforms, like the tax reform for acceleration and inclusion act (TRAIN), corporate recovery and tax incentives for enterprises (CREATE), among others.

“The Philippines, clearly, will not be the ‘laggard in Asia’ in this respect,” the finance official pointed out.

According to Beltran, the Philippines’ strong economic fundamentals, improved social services and “game-changing” tax reforms will help the country endure its marathon towards inclusive and sustainable development.

“The country has to cautiously and safely run through the unexpected pandemic leg of this marathon and be right back on track,” Beltran assured.

Earlier, Moody’s Analytics said the Philippines was the “clear laggard” in Asia, noting that its economy will likely return to its pre-pandemic levels only by the end of next year.

Decentralized health advice alongside the sluggish COVID-19 vaccine rollout is denting the nation’s recovery, the US-based economic and financial think tank said.

According to the analysis entitled “The Philippines Struggles to Shake the Pandemic,” the country, which before the heath crisis was among the fastest growing economies in the region, has fallen behind on recovery compared with its Asian peers.

“China, Taiwan, South Korea and Vietnam have returned to previous output levels, while Indonesia and Thailand are on track to return this year,” Moody’s Analytics said. “This makes the Philippines the clear laggard in Asia.”

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