With Asia well-poised for future economic success, the Philippines is slated to be one of the region’s growth leaders, so long as a few hurdles are overcome along the way. By Michael E Neumann
As long as Philippines strives to invest public monies to build key infrastructure and solve its electric generation and transmission issues, the country is well-positioned to be one of the fastest-growing economies in the region. This is according to “Competitiveness: Catching the next wave: The Philippines”, a report released by Deloitte Global.
Manufacturing A Strong Growth Driver
The report also projected the key industries that will likely drive Philippines’ growth over the next two decades. They include manufacturing, business process outsourcing (BPO), construction, as well as transportation and logistics.
Steps that the government can take to make the region more attractive to business were also highlighted, including increasing corporate governance and reducing corruption.
“The strong growth in global manufacturing to 2033 will drive world growth, and this presents the Philippines with great potential to integrate into the global supply chain of high-value manufacturing,” said Gary Coleman, managing director, global clients and industries, Deloitte Global. “If the government makes smart investments in infrastructure—including roads and harbours—that would help to boost the construction and transportation sectors and lead to higher productivity growth in the coming years as well.”
The report noted that the BPO industry will be a source of employment for new graduates. However it also cautioned that in order to achieve long-term growth, the Philippines must reduce unemployment and the government must implement policies to improve the business climate. Reform measures aimed at reducing corruption in the procurement process, civil servant training and wages, and instituting reporting and enforcement mechanisms were also recommended.
Additional industry driving growth highlights include:
- Manufacturing: To help boost manufacturing initiatives, the government should introduce a number of special industrial zones that benefit from a combination of supportive government policies. The Philippines should also begin to specialise in higher-value manufacturing.
- Construction: Construction of roads, harbours, and other public infrastructure can boost the nation’s employment, productivity, and economic output. Reconstruction efforts following the devastation of Typhoon Haiyan and upgrades to existing infrastructure should contribute to a growth rate of 5.2 percent per year from 2014 to 2033.
- Transportation and logistics: The poor quality of the transportation infrastructure has held back the economic development of the Philippines for many years. With policies designed to address ongoing transportation infrastructure issues, a baseline forecast of 4.9 percent growth in sector between now and 2033 can be expected.
“Relaxing limits on foreign ownership could boost foreign direct investment, increase efficiency and prompt higher levels of competition,” said Chaly Mah, chief executive officer, Deloitte Asia Pacific. “Additionally the government should look to public-private partnerships to help speed investment spending on infrastructure, reduce bottlenecks, and implement policies that promote inclusive economic growth.”
Leading Growth In ASEAN
The report also projected that the Philippines will grow faster than Southeast Asia as a whole over the next two decades, with overall GDP expanding by 4.8 percent per year up to the forecasted period of 2033.
“Compared to other regions that have experienced slower economics, the Philippines story is quite remarkable, said Mr Mah. “There are great opportunities—if the Philippine government can seize them—to fuel growth and become one of the most competitive nations in the region.”
Philippine 2017 GDP Up 6.7%
A recovered agriculture sector, strong government consumption, as well as better exports and imports made it possible for the Philippine economy to grow above six percent for the 6th straight year in 2017, according to Philippines national statistician Lisa Grace Bersales.
Ms Bersales recently announced that the gross domestic product (GDP) grew 6.7 percent in 2017, slightly below the 6.9 percent growth recorded in 2016. This still saw the Philippines being ranked among the fastest-growing economies in Asia, after China’s 6.9 percent and Vietnam’s 6.8 percent.
Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia added that GDP growth in the last quarter of 2017 was backed by growth of 14.3 percent in government consumption, a substantial increase from 4.5 percent in the same period in the previous year.
Industry Shows Biggest Growth
Industry was the fastest grower among the major sectors, expanding by 7.3 percent. Services followed at 6.8 percent. However, this was a decrease from 7.9 percent and 7.2 percent recorded respectively in the same period in 2016.
The Philippines’ BPO industry also expects annual growth to slow down to nine percent until 2022, due to factors such as a larger scale, sluggish global industry growth, and security headwinds in the country.
Construction On Decline
The construction industry also saw a reduced rate of slowdown, at 2.8 percent compared from 10.7 percent recorded in the same period a year ago.
“We also recorded stronger public construction spending at 25.1 percent that offset the 2.9 percent contraction in private construction,” Mr Pernia said. He linked the decline in private construction spending, which accounts for 74.9 percent of total construction investments, to the onset of the holiday season.
The country’s economy had started 2017 sluggishly due to the slow implementation of big-ticket infrastructure projects, which gradually began to pick up in the 2nd quarter.
High Rates Of Forecasted Growth
The effect of more government spending as well as a recovering agriculture sector also contributed to better-than-expected third quarter growth, which was recently revised upwards to seven percent.
World Bank and the Asian Development Bank both expect the Philippines to remain as one of the fastest-growing economies in the region in 2018, with forecasts of 6.7 percent and 6.8 percent growth, respectively.