MANILA - The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas needs to keep its policy rate steady this year to help boost growth, a regional think tank said on Tuesday.
The ASEAN plus 3 Macroeconomic Research Office (AMRO) also recommended that the government increase its spending to strengthen economic recovery following the disruptions of the COVID-19 pandemic.
AMRO said it doesn’t see any urgency for the BSP to tighten monetary policy, despite elevated inflation in recent months. AMRO said the high prices seen this year were due to supply issues and were transitory.
“Although inflation has picked up in most countries in the region, it is due to higher oil prices and supply shock. Like in the Philippines it's because of the pork disruption in supply. Those are pretty transitory,” said AMRO Chief Economist Dr. Hoe Ee Khor.
Khor said the threat of capital flight is minimal, even as other central banks adjust monetary policy, like the United States. He said the Philippines’ gross international reserves are at record levels to help buffer external shocks, and Philippine financial markets have also been getting by with low foreign participation as well.
“In the meantime it is important we keep the current monetary policy. We don’t see the need to ease further, at the same time we don’t see the need to tighten. We don’t see the need for any move in monetary policy yet, maybe even until next year,” Khor added.
The BSP has kept its policy rate at a record low of 2 percent since December last year in a bid to boost lending. Despite this, banks have kept a tight lid on lending amid worries that borrowers may default on their loans given the uncertainties of the pandemic.
Fitch Solutions has forecast that the BSP will not raise rates until the latter part of next year.
AMRO also recommended boosting spending to help economic recovery as the Philippines has enough fiscal space to do this.
"I think the Philippines has a lot of fiscal space. They should make use of the fiscal space to strengthen the recovery. The recovery has weakened. it is important to do that to address scarring for the economy and it can bounce back faster to pre-COVID level,” Khor said.
AMRO Senior Economist Byunghoon Nam however noted the level of fiscal stimulus will still depend on the Philippine government’s success in its vaccination program.
“How big the stimulus should be, that will depend on how successful they are in containing what the scarring might be and all that,” Nam said
Khor said the country needs to boost the pace of its vaccine rollout.
“The government needs to significantly ramp up vaccination in the second half,” Khor said.
ABS-CBN News’ vaccine tracker puts the number of fully vaccinated Filipinos at 2,527,286 or just 4.36 percent of the 58 million target for the year, after almost 3 months since the vaccination program started.