Philippines to Sustain Economic Growth

The Philippine economy is expected to sustain its upward growth trajectory regardless of next year’s election results, according to investment bank BofA Merrill Lynch. In its research note entitled “Asia 2016 Year Ahead,” Merrill Lynch disagreed with views that May 2016 election results could derail near-term growth and investment spending.

The study said the country’s economy grows at over 5 percent annually, with private sector investment spending expected to remain elevated in 2016. Merrill Lynch analysts added that government spending should continue to speed up next year as indicated by the government’s 2016 budget with 15 percent nominal spending growth.

The Philippine economy grew by an average of 6.3 percent in the last five years of President Noynoy Aquino’s term, compared to the 4.8 percent growth rate during former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s nine-year tenure. The Merrill Lynch research note is quick to add, however, that fiscal and monetary policy reform that boosted the economy to record levels began seven to eight years before.

Analysts credited the Aquino administration for improved revenue collection and spending reform that should continue in 2016 and the coming years, saying that a GDP growth rate of more than 5 percent is “likely achievable.”

The study predicts a 5.5 percent GDP growth for 2016, but cautioned that weaker global growth could challenge the outsourcing trend or the income/employment of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs). If this happens, GDP growth might drop below 5 percent.

“We are more cautious of growth in agriculture and exports but believe that buoyant private consumption and resurgent government spending should be enough to drive growth,” said the study. Merrill Lynch still expects a modest fiscal deficit, current account surplus and monetary policy changes to make GDP growth resilient in the near term.