Water shortage, oil prices risks to growth

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    The National Economic and Development Authority’s (NEDA) top official said the economy has tagged possible risks in the economy in the year ahead.

    Ernesto Pernia, socioeconomic planning secretary, reiterated in his yearend statement during NEDA’s 84th anniversary celebration held in Pasig City yesterday the gross domestic product growth is projected to be between six to 6.5 percent for 2019 and 6.5 to 7.5 percent in 2020 to 2022.

    “We see a stable economic performance for 2019, even as we remain vigilant and prepared to face risks such as the possible water shortages in 2020, weak global growth and stagnating world trade, disruptive technologies, and the volatility of oil prices,” Pernia said.

    “As Filipinos, there is much that we can look forward to in 2020, as we will continue to invest in the people’s future while addressing immediate and medium-term challenges,” he added.

    Pernia recalled the performance of the economy which he said has continued to grow this year despite the initial slowdown in the first two quarters, as well as other obstacles such as from the El Niño phenomenon that resulted in water shortages, the delay in the passage of the 2019 budget, to the US-China trade war, among other things.

    “The Philippines stayed as one of the best-performing economies in Asia posting a 6.2 percent growth in the third quarter. We are the second fastest growing major economy after Vietnam – ahead of China, India, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Thailand,” Pernia said.

    In the first three quarters of 2019, the Philippine economy recorded a 5.8 percent growth rate, slightly below the lower-end of the full-year growth target for 2019.

    “More importantly, growth has been more inclusive, as we were able to lift more Filipinos out of poverty in 2018 when population poverty incidence dropped to 16.6 percent of the population from 23.3 percent in 2015,” Pernia said.

    The number of poor Filipinos, or the magnitude of poverty, went down from 23.5 million Filipinos in 2015 to 17.6 million Filipinos in 2018.

    “This means that we have lifted 5.9 million Filipinos from poverty between 2015 and 2018,” Pernia said.

    Pernia also said prices, which are a major concern of ordinary Filipinos, have remained stable.

    Year-to-date headline inflation for 2019 stands at 2.5 percent, mainly driven by lower prices of food relative to the previous year’s level. In the case of non-food items, the decline in global oil prices resulted in price rollbacks for domestic petroleum products.

    “In terms of employment, another major concern among Filipinos, our labor market remains strong with more and better quality jobs being created in the past three years,” Pernia said.

    “In fact, as of October 2019 Labor Force Survey, the country’s employment rate rose to 95.5 percent of the labor force, the highest in all previous October rounds of the Labor Force Survey in the last ten years,” he added.

    The unemployment rate dropped from 5.1 percent in 2018 to 4.5 percent this year, the lowest in the last 10 years. The underemployment rate likewise eased to 13 percent from 13.3 percent in 2018.

    “In terms of trade and investments, we are currently pushing for the amendments to the Public Service Act, the Retail Trade Liberalization Act, and the Foreign Investment Act since these priority bills will support the expansion of foreign direct investment and trade opportunities in the Philippines,” Pernia said.

    To support and sustain inclusive growth through infrastructure, Pernia said the NEDA Board approved seven new projects during the last meeting amounting to P187.34 billion.

    “Majority of these projects will be implemented outside Metro Manila, as we aim to develop growth centers in the regions and spread economic growth and development throughout the country,” Pernia said.

    “I am delighted that we will be closing this year upbeat in retrospect and optimistic looking forward,” he added.