MAY 22, 2009
(STAR) By Iris C. Gonzales - The Philippine economy, as measured by the gross domestic product (GDP), likely grew between 1.8 percent and 2.8 percent in the first three months of the year, significantly slower than the 4.7 percent growth recorded a year ago, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ralph Recto said yesterday.

For the full year, Recto said the government remains confident of hitting its target of 3.1 percent to 4.1 percent.

“We are confident of these numbers,” he noted, adding that second-quarter growth will be better than the forecast for the first three months due to easing inflation.

Despite the expected economic slowdown in the first three months of the year, Recto said if the actual first quarter GDP figures are within the projected numbers, it means that the country’s growth is not too far behind that of its neighbors.

“We’re catching up with our neighbors,” Recto told a press briefing yesterday.

In the first quarter, Vietnam grew by 3.1 percent while China posted a growth of 6.1 percent. On the other hand, Hong Kong’s economy contracted by 7.1 percent, South Korea by 4.3 percent and Singapore by 10.1 percent.

The National Statistics Office is scheduled to release the actual first quarter growth figures on May 28.

Recto said that in the first quarter, the agriculture and fisheries sector likely grew anywhere from 1.5 percent to 2.1 percent, the industry, by 0.1 percent to 1.5 percent and the service sector from three percent to four percent.

Reaching the high end of the official GDP growth forecast depends largely on the inflow of dollar remittances from overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and a rebound in exports.

“All these would lead to greater consumption in the Philippines,” Recto said.

The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) chief believes the global financial turmoil is already on its tail-end.

“The worse may be over but global recovery won’t be immediate,” he said.

Recto also said that economic growth in the second, third and fourth quarters would be better than growth in the first quarter.

The Philippine economy, as measured by GDP grew by 4.6 percent in 2008, from a 30-year high of 7.2 percent recorded in 2007 as the country struggles to grow amid a global financial crisis.

The 4.6 percent growth for 2008 was within the Development Budget Coordination Committee’s (DBCC) revised economic growth assumption of 4.1 percent to 4.8 percent for last year.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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