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Philippines' 7.8% growth in Q1 outperforms peers, China

A construction site at the expanding commercial district The Fort in Taguig City. SPEKTOGRAF

MANILA, Philippines - The Philippine economy exceeded targets and forecasts with its 7.8-percent growth in the first quarter of the year, the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB) announced on Thursday.

The growth, boosted by robust performance of all major sectors, was over the 6.5-percent expansion in the first quarter last year.

NSCB said the performance of the construction and manufacturing industries were the major drivers, while consumer spending and government expenditure also contributed to the growth.

All major sectors contributed positively to growth during the period, with services expanding by 7.0 percent; industry by 10.9 percent; and the agriculture sector by 3.3 percent.

National Economic and Development Authority director general and Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Artemio Balisacan said the country grew fastest in Southeast Asia, even overtaking growth rates of neighbors China and Indonesia having 7.7 percent and 6 percent respectively.

"Impressive performance of these sectors prove that the country is already reaping the benefits of strengthening priority sectors that are potential growth sdrivers and employment generators," said Balisacan. "Business confidence and consumer optimism fuelled this growth, putting to rest doubts cast on the 2012 figures as being due to base effects only."

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"The numbers speak for themselves. The numbers exceeded market forecasts, including my own," Balisacan added.
He also said the impressive growth of various sectors would also generate employment for Filipinos.

In 2012, the Philippine economy grew  7.1 percent

Growth sectors

Albert said the robust growth was boosted by the strong performance of manufacturing and construction, backed up by financial intermediation and trade.

Increased domestic demand led to the local manufacturing sector growing at 9.7 percent while the construction sector grew by 32.5 percent in the first three months of the year.

"Initially, this was led by infrastructure spending of the government. By the second half of 2012, private construction started to rebound," said Balisacan.

On the other hand, Albert cited the continued inflow of remittances from overseas Filipino workers, which accelerated the Net Primary Income from the rest of the world to grow by 3.2 percent.

This boosted the Gross National Income (GNI) growth to 7.1 percent from 5.7 percent in 2012, according to the NSCB chief.

The agriculture sector also grew by 3.3 percent as the fisheries subsector bounced back to a growth of 5.5 percent during the first quarter.

Capital formation spurred overall growth with its 47.7 percent expansion, according to Balisacan.

"For the first time, expenditure in capital formation, including other private sector investments such as on durable equipment, contributed more to growth than household consumption expenditure," the Cabinet official said.

Government consumption also grew by 13.2 percent due to state support for social programs such as the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program.

Balisacan is also expecting the growth to be sustained regardless of the sluggish growth of developed countries.

"Despite what's happening in other countries, (the global economy) will not hamper our growth," he said.

Inclusive growth?

Meanwhile,  Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Secretary Ramon Carandang said the government is not resting on its laurels with the faster-than-expected growth in the first quarter.

"Our challenge is to sustain the growth and ensure that all Filipinos feel its positive effects," he said on Twitter.

A recent survey has reported that  some  1.1 million Filipinos  have joined  the unemployed and underemployed pool of 10.05 million this year.

There has also been little change in poverty and hunger figures, standing at 27.9 percent in early 2012.

Related story: No improvement in lives of poor Filipinos

"To address this, we need to create more jobs than that number," Balisacan said.

Meanwhile,  Abigail Valte, deputy presidential spokesperson, said the Aquino administration remains focused on fostering inclusive growth.

"Since our administration took office, we have worked to drastically expand social safety nets to help the most vulnerable in our country...The recent election results show that the public has confidence in the President, and agrees with the direction the country is going. Therefore, our administration will continue to promote and expand policies that lead to a Philippines where no one is left behind," Valte said in a statement.

2012 growth figures revised

On Wednesday night, the NSCB also revised the 2012 annual GDP growth figures from 6.6 percent to 6.8 percent.

"The revision was brought by the upward revisions in Public Administration and Defense: Compulsory Social Security (PAD), Mining & Quarrying, Other Services, and Construction," the NSCB said.

Net Primary Income was similarly revised upward from 3.3 percent to 4.8 percent which consequently resulted in an upward revision of GNI for 2012 from 5.8 percent to 6.5 percent.

In contrast, the 2011 GDP growth figure was revised downward from 3.9 percent to 3.6 percent due to the revisions in Construction, Other Services and Real Estate, Renting & Business Activities.

The GNI for 2011 was also revised downward from 3.2 percent to 2.8 percent.

Meanwhile, GDP growth figure for fourth quarter of 2012 was revised upward from 6.8 percent to 7.1 percent due to upward revisions in construction, financial intermediation and PAD.

"Released last January 2013, the preliminary GDP estimates for said quarter were based from limited data available 15 days after the reference period," the agency said.

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