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"Given the preliminary first quarter estimate, we expect the full year 2012 target of 5% to 6% is well within range or we may even exceed it," Balisacan said.|
"We want to keep the momentum going to meet 7% to 8% growth," the economic planning chief said.
"Government will not let up in its efforts to accelerate the growth of the economy. There is room for faster government spending and the government remains vigilant to threat to growth, including the eurozone, the debt problem in Europe and uncertainties in oil prices," he added.
"Growth over the near term will be supported by major infrastructure projects identified by the PPP (public private partnership) projects," Balisacan explained.
"Twenty-two (22) projects have been identified under the PPP as of May 2012. These are mainly for transportation connectivity, such as roads and airports," he added.
So far, none of the big-ticket infrastructure projects trumpeted by the Aquino government in 2010 has been successfully bidded out. Even the medium-sized Daang Hari road project awarded in late December 2011 has yet to commence construction.
Previously, the Department of Public Works and Highways chief said they instituted reforms in the award of road contracts to rid the system of corruption. But these resulted in project delays. The goal was to start construction works during the first 6 months of 2012, or before the rainy season sets in.
These delays backfired when the government missed its 2011 annual target and achieved a lackluster 3.7% increase in GDP (revised upward to 3.9%). While part of the blame for the sluggish growth was attributed to global economic woes and bad weather, much of the criticism rested on the shoulders of President Aquino, whose administration was criticized for delaying government spending on crucial infrastructure.
"It would be quite hard to duplicate the bad growth rates of 2011, so at this point there is really no where to go but up. The administration will have to work very hard to do worse and from all indications it doesn't intend to," said Ramos-era finance secretary Roberto de Ocampo at Arangkada Philippines Forum in January.
Sustaining the growth
How the government will sustain this growth remains to be seen. Balisacan, who assumed the top post at the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) a few weeks ago, has said the goal is to pursue an "inclusive growth" or one that trickles to the poor.
He had said that, while most of the high-profile PPP projects are focused on Metro Manila, the poor are mostly in the provinces, and could benefit more from farm-to-market roads, as well as irrigation projects.
The first quarter data showed that agriculture and fisheries sector grew by a paltry 1%. Balisacan, a poverty expert, had said he would prefer to see this long-neglected sector perform better.
Other key factors cited in the first quarter growth face challenges.
Global trade remains worrisome amid the crisis in the west. And China, a key regional trade partner of the Philippines, is expecting a slower growth of 8.2% in 2012.
This was reflected in the Philippine exports and imports data.