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Philippines tops 2012 growth target

Photo shows a number of building projects at the Bonifacio Global City in Taguig. 

MANILA, Philippines - The Philippines posted a 6.6-percent economic expansion in 2012, beating government forecast as fourth quarter gross domestic product grew by 6.8 percent, the National Statistical Coordination Board announced on Thursday.

"The increase was fueled by the robust performance of the services sector led by trade and real estate, renting and business activities as well as the substantial improvements of manufacturing and construction," Jose Ramon Albert,  NSCB secretary general said.

The government has set a 5-6-percent growth target for 2012.

On the demand side, meanwhile, the economy was boosted by household final consumption expenditure, government spending, recovery of capital formation and strong external trade performance.

GDP refers to the sum of goods and services produced within the country for a certain period.

"With the robust economic growth in 2012, per capita GDP accelerated to 8.8 percent from 2.2 percent in 2011," Albert said.

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For his part, Secretary Arsenio Balisacan of the National Economic and Development Authority said the Development Budget Coordination Committee will soon meet to discuss implementing policies which will ensure that the growth is sustained and trickles down to the people.

"The crucial issue is the implementation of appropriate policies and measures to ensure that we will sustain this high growth and make it inclusive in the medium term," Balisacan added.

Asked about policies that will ensure an inclusive growth amid strong GDP figures, he said the government will look into increasing investment that will provide employment opportunities for unskilled Filipinos.

"Industry and manufacturing has to grow and absorb labor," he said, adding that access to human capital development particularly among children of poor families must be expanded.

He added that in 2013,  the government is working to close the gaps in schools to improve the quality of education.

The secretary added that in terms of health, the government is batting for a nationwide PhilHealth coverage, noting that the passage of the Reproductive Health Law will also help in reaching more families who will benefit from healthcare services.

The better-than-expected performance of the Philippine economy also prompted DBCC to set this year's growth target to 6-7 percent, Balisacan said, adding that this is a conservative assumption since risks in the global economic landscape still remain high.

He said that the government is also working on tempering the strength of the peso, which negatively affects the burgeoning business process outsourcing industry, exports and consumption.

"We need to manage well the peso appreciation... We are hoping that investment will pick up in a big way... to increase the absorptive capacity of the economy to absorb more dollars," he said.

Compared with other data from countries within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the country's 2012 GDP growth is higher than that of Vietnam (5.4 percent) and Singapore (1.1 percent). China, on the other hand, grew by 7.8 percent in the fourth quarter of last year. Other countries have yet to release their growth data, Balisacan added.

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