JANUARY 23, 2020 – External problems and delays in the budget approval which resulted in a slowdown in public infrastructure have impacted into the country’s economic growth in 2019, growing only by 5.9 percent, the slowest in eight years, the government’s statistics office said on Thursday.
The economic growth was slightly higher than the 5.8 percent forecast made by the World Bank last year.
In a news briefing, the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) said the gross domestic product (GDP) accelerated to 6.4 percent in the past three months, but was not enough to push the full-year growth above the government’s target of 6 to 6.5 percent.
“We have seen our economy facing several challenges right at the start of 2019 as the budget impasse led to delays in the implementation of government programs and projects,” said Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia.
“Adding to the problem was the election ban on certain major infrastructure projects.”
The Philippines remained as one of the fastest growing economies in Asia behind China and Vietnam and India.
Services posted the fastest growth in the fourth quarter with 7.9 percent, followed by the industry sector at 5.4 percent.
The agriculture sector, meanwhile, only grew by 1.5 percent as the country was hit by devastating typhoons in the fourth quarter.
Pernia said the slowdown in agriculture was due to the El Niño phenomenon that damaged crops and the African Swine Fever that resulted in the culling of over 136,000 pigs.
There were also external factors, like the bruising trade wars between China and US and continued tension in the Middle East, which affected worker’ remittances from the volatile region.
Last 2018, the Philippines also missed its target of 6.5 to 6.9 percent growth after only hitting 6.2 percent.
“There is a need to reconfigure budget and disbursement protocols that are more robust,” Pernia said.
The secretary also called for a faster implementation of key social and infrastructure programs of the government.
The Department of Agriculture (DA) and local government units should also hasten the release of cash or loan assistance to affected farmers and fisherfolks, Pernia said, especially in light of the Taal Volcano eruption.
For over a week, the country’s second most active volcano showed signs of possible eruptive explosion within hours or days.
The DA has reported more than 3.22 billion pesos damages in the agriculture sector, with the fisheries badly hit by the hazardous materials spewed by Taal.
Pernia also underscored the need for tougher disease control measures against ASF and vigilance regarding developments in the oil market due to the rising tension in the Middle East.
For next year, global lender has also cut its economic growth forecast to 6.2 percent from 6.5 percent.
The government has to recalibrate its growth target, setting a high 6-7 percent growth for this year and next year. (Karen Macalalad/MM)
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