MALACANANG,  February 1, 2004 (STAR) The Philippine economy registered remarkable growth in 2003, surmounting global and domestic hurdles and negative assessments.

Fiscal authorities forecast a 4.2 to 5.2 percent growth in gross national product (GNP) for 2003, but it went better at 5.5 percent from 4.5 percent in 2002, thanks to the astute handling of the situation by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her team.

Despite global economic slowdown, the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), the US-Iraqi War, a failed mutiny, destabilization attempts, the Philippine economy stood resilient.

Most private sector analysts, credit rating agencies and multilateral agencies indicated a growth below the government projection of 4.2 to 5.2 percent but GMA and her team, getting solid support from the services sector and overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), with an 18.8 percent upsurge in remittances, proved them wrong.

"The numbers show the economy continues to keep its internal dynamism going, despite the many adverse global and domestic economic and political developments that buffeted the economy in 2003," Socioeconomic Planning Secretary and National Economic and Development Authority director general Romulo Neri said.

"We need to continue this trend, this uptrend in growth in order to have a sustained basis for uplifting the condition of the average Filipino," said President Macapagal-Arroyo, visibly elated over the continued growth under her stewardship.

The peso had gone down vis-a-vis the dollar the past few days but Malacaņang was taking it in stride. Indeed, before the weekend, the peso showed signs of recovery.

"The economy is well and moving upward but the peso is being pummeled by political bickering, coupled with isolated military adventurism. This is a transient problem and we will get over it soon," Presidential Spokesman Ignacio Bunye said.

With the strong performance of the economy last year, the government has projected a gross domestic product (GDP) growth of 4.9 to 5.8 percent for the year.

"The 2004 forecast are hinged on continued macroeconomic stability, anchored on fiscal discipline and stable financial currency markets. This cannot be achieved by government alone and needs the cooperation of all," Neri said.

The GDP grew 4.5 percent in 2003 despite a slowdown in the last quarter of the year but remittances from OFWs boosted the GNP to its 5.5 percent rise.

GNP is income earned in the country (GDP) plus income earned abroad.

The service factor proved to be the biggest factor on the domestic front in 2003 at it grew 5.9 percent from 5.4 percent the previous year. It was at its strongest in the last three months with a quarterly growth of 6.5 percent, led by the transport, communications and trade subsector.

Agriculture, despite the El Nino phenomenon, still went up 3.9 percent from 3.3.

Increased consumer spending, from 4.1 percent in 2002 to 5.1 percent in 2003, proved the primary factor in GDP rise, Neri said.

"Private consumer spending remains robust in part due to the growth in overseas compensation income and low inflation environment. The greater variety of choices in the consumer market also contributed, spawned by increasing competition among producers and retailers," Neri added.

Records from the National Statistical Coordination Board indicated an upswing in private food consumption to 4.7 percent from 3.4 in 2002. Household operations went up 2.8 percent (2.3), clothing and footwear 3.4 percent (2.7), and fuel, light and water 5.0 percent (0.6).


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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