(STAR) By Ma. Elisa P. Osorio - The Philippines will likely be spared from a global economic slowdown seen next year because the demand for electronics, the country’s main export, is expected to rise, a ranking government official said.

Dennis Arroyo, National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) assistant director for national planning and policy, said despite a forecast slowdown in the global economy driven mainly by weakening US consumption, there will likely be an increase in the demand for electronic goods.

In fact, he said a semiconductors association in the United States predicted an 11 percent increase in the demand for electronics, higher when compared to this year’s 9.8 percent.

"The global demand for MP3s, laptop computers and other electronic items will grow stronger," Arroyo noted.

Electronic products, such as semiconductors, remained as the country’s biggest export product, making up 64 percent of the goods sold overseas.

In September, revenue from the export of electronics went up 6.5 percent to $2.661 billion from $2.499 billion a year ago.

UBS economist Paul Donovan earlier warned against continued dependence on the US as a market for exported products as the consumption of Americans is seen to slow down next year.

"That is what has been driving the rest of the world, so as the US consumer starts to slow down, we are going to see a break on export growth," Donovan explained.

"What we are forecasting is a very small increase in the savings rate now. I am not suggesting a dramatic increase, the savings rate does not turn positive until 2008 but the change is enough to slow the consumption down," he added.

SWS head: Economic growth not being felt by the poor By Helen Flores The Philippine Star 11/21/2006

The increasing hunger incidence in the country showed that economic growth in the last two years is not being felt by the poor, the Social Weather Stations (SWS) said yesterday.

The SWS, in its report titled "SWS Quarterly Surveys on Poverty and Hunger Show the Emptiness of GNP," said it based its conclusions on their quarterly hunger and poverty surveys.

"The continuing series of quarterly SWS national surveys, which have hunger ranging from 12 percent to 16.7 percent of families in the four quarters of 2005, and from 13.9 percent to 16.9 percent in the first three quarters of 2006, show the emptiness of Gross National Product (GNP) as an indicator of economic well-being," the SWS said.

The survey firm said that "a great challenge to meaningful economic research is to determine why hunger actually worsened tremendously despite GNP growth of recent years."

Hunger declined in the period of 2000 to 2003, adding "the rate of inflation of food prices, for instance, deserves examination as a determinant of hunger," it added.

The SWS said the subjects of hunger and poverty in Filipino families are regular components of the SWS reports.

They are statistically tracked on a quarterly basis, in order to match the periodicity of the National Income Accounts, and released punctually as a public service, it added.

The SWS said the nationally-representative SWS statistics now cover 61 consecutive quarters for poverty since 1992 (74 data points over 1983-2006), and 34 consecutive quarters for hunger since 1998.

"In particular, it is not true, as claimed by some quarters, that they only cover urban areas; indeed, they show that rural hunger exceeds urban hunger, and that farming-sector hunger exceeds that in other sectors, as has been the pattern in innumerable studies of poverty," the SWS said.

At least 1.4 million Filipino families or 20.3 percent of the estimated 6.7 million rural households experienced involuntary hunger at least once in the past three months, the third quarter SWS survey showed.

The survey which was conducted from Sept. 24 to Oct. 2, also reported that 14.8 percent or 1.6 million of the projected 10.6 million urban households experienced hunger incidence.

The availability in the Philippines of a series of national-level statistics on poverty and hunger for an extensive time is a global innovation, it added.

The SWS said the measurement of poverty by the Self-Rating approach was piloted in Batangas in 1974, and applied in Metro Manila in 1981, and nationally in 1983 for the first time, and annually or oftener starting in 1985.

"The SWS Self-Rated Poverty Thresholds (medians of P10,000 in Metro Manila, P6,000 in the Balance of Luzon, P6,000 in the Visayas, and P5,000 in Mindanao, per family per month for home expenses, as of September 2006) are reasonable, indicating that the SWS surveys’ high proportions of poverty are not due to household heads’ exaggeration of their economic needs," the SWS said.

"Survey responses on family experience of hunger are just as reliable as, for instance, responses on personal work, on which unemployment statistics are based; to downgrade the SWS measures as mere "perceptions" of hunger is wrong, as well as cruel and unfeeling.

"Recent survey trials by the Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI) to assess hunger by means of very similar survey questions have resulted in similarly high proportions of Filipinos suffering from hunger."

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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