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Economic team seen to lower 2021 GDP goal

A marshall inspects passengers’ compliance with health protocols inside a Philippine National Railways train at Tutuban station (main) in Manila as operations resumed on Monday (April 12). Only 10 to 12 trains will be operational. Passengers are not allowed to eat, talk to fellow passengers or make or accept calls on their mobile phones while inside the train.

ECONOMIC managers will likely revise their growth target for the year as the country reverts to stricter movement and travel restrictions to address the rising Covid-19 cases in major economic hubs in the country.

This was bared by Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Governor Benjamin Diokno on Monday, in his appearance at the Lagina Handa virtual briefing.

“[Our] original forecast approved by the DBCC [Development Budget Coordination Committee] last December 3, 2020 was that our economy will likely grow by 6.5 to 7.5 percent this year. This growth will be pushed higher by 2022 and was earlier expected to reach 8 to 10 percent,” Diokno said.

“However, because of the recent restrictions on the economy because of the implementation of the ECQ [Enhanced Community Quarantine] in NCR Plus, it is likely that the DBCC will revisit that original forecast of 6.5 to 7.5 percent this month,” Diokno said.

Earlier this month, the government put the National Capital Region—along with its neighboring provinces—into stricter lockdowns as Covid-19 cases rose.

The policy covered the areas under the so-called NCR Plus, which includes Metro Manila, Laguna, Cavite, Bulacan, and Rizal.

This was then lowered to Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine (MECQ) effective April 12.

The Department of Health (DOH) reported 11,378 new Covid-19 cases on Monday.

Diokno said his personal assessment shows that the growth target will be lowered to around 6 to 7 percent. The governor, however, did not bare any more details on the schedule of the next DBCC meeting.

The BSP governor also said the government should focus on creating more jobs, as well as giving support to certain industries such as health care, construction and business process outsourcing (BPO).

Earlier, Fitch Solutions slashed its 2021 Philippine growth forecast from 7.6 percent down to 5.8 percent, with risks “very much tilted to the downside.”

“We expect the lockdown measures to be extended given the continued surge in cases and the prolonged impact on hospital capacity,” Fitch Solutions said.

“The likelihood of further outbreaks in other regions remains high and given the slow vaccination rollout in the country as less than 1 percent of the population has been vaccinated as of end-March, we believe the Philippines’s recovery will continue to be hampered by the pandemic,” it added. Moody’s Analytics—the research arm of Moody’s Group—also earlier said the Philippines “stands out as the laggard” in the region as it faces a surge of new infections and fresh lockdown measures.

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