PH growth still not felt by Pinoys - economist

by Cathy Rose A. Garcia,

Posted at Aug 30 2012 05:19 PM | Updated as of Aug 31 2012 06:54 AM

MANILA, Philippines - The Philippine economy posted a 5.9% GDP growth in the second quarter, one of the highest growth rates in Southeast Asia, but IBON Foundation executive director Sonny Africa says the growth is still not being felt by most Filipinos.

"It's always good to watch the numbers but we have to ask : where's the growth coming from, and what does it mean for most Filipinos. The reality is Philippine growth is not benefitting the poor," he told ANC.

The Philippine economy grew by 5.9% in the second quarter. Economic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan said the second quarter growth was boosted by government spending, consumption and the robust growth of the services sector.

Africa noted the first semester figures show increased government spending, but still not enough private sector spending.

"The idea is the Philippines is picking up momentum, good governance translating to better economic prospects, but if you look at the first semester, apparently it's only the government that's convinced... The private sector is not investing yet, it is not spending on construction. The main source of stimulus is still the government," he said.

"The question is why is the private sector not buying into this supposedly good prospects for Philippine economy. It's putting your money where your mouth is. If you believe the economy is going to be improving, business should be spending more."

Africa said the government is spending so much on the conditional cash transfer program (Pantawid Pamilya), but this does not address the underlying problems of the economy.

"The CCT is a bridge to nowhere. If they don't resolve the basic problem, jobs aren't being created in the Philippines, the biggest source of consumption expenditures is overseas remittances, the long-term problems of the Philippines will remain," he noted.

Africa said the government should build domestic agriculture and manufacturing, in order to create more jobs.

"Yes in a way it is against wave of liberalization in the last 3 decades, but has it been a good thing? Clearly not. Philippine growth in the last decade has been fastest in the post-Marcos era, yet unemployment has been the highest since 1947 when the Philippines started monitoring unemployment. That is not an aberration. The fact that domestic agriculture and domestic manufacturing has collapsed in the last decade explains why unemployment has soared," he said.