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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs        31  May 2011

Philippines growth slows

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Economists say the Philippines’ slowdown in the first quarter forecasts weaker growth for the rest of the year.

In a market commentary, Sherman Chan, an economist at HSBC, said a further moderation in growth is expected in the second quarter, as household consumption would eventually lose a bit of steam. Chan said economic linkages with Japan mean that recent disasters will have a negative impact, albeit temporary, on trade and investment.

“The government’s growth target of 7 percent to 8 percent has always seemed to be a huge challenge, barring recent events in Japan and the Middle East. We expect the 2011 annual growth rate to come in at a slower but still-healthy 5.4 percent,” she said.

In a separate commentary, Prakriti Sofat, Barclays Capital economist, said the bank has maintained its 2011 forecast of 5 percent growth despite the deceleration in the first three months of the year.

Separately, Benjamin Diokno, a former budget secretary who teaches economics at the University of the Philippines, said the full-year target “now appears to be unreachable.”

“The full year outlook is not rosy. The first quarter numbers are history. They are likely to be repeated in the second quarter, however. Government under spending, especially for infrastructure projects and social overhead (school buildings, for example) persisted. Two months of the second quarter are gone, and the rainy season has officially started. The bulk of public construction may have to wait after the rainy season [sometime in November and December],” the UP professor said.

He said the government “should design a program that would put the administration back on a strong recovery path, recognizing that from here on, it is their responsibility, not anybody else, on how the economy will perform in the days, weeks, quarters and years ahead.”

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By David Swartzentruber      

It is commonplace in journalism to write two types of articles at the transition point between the year that has passed and the New Year. As this writer qualifies as an “old hand” in observing Thailand with a track record dating back 14 years, it is time take a shot at what may unfold in Thailand in 2011.

The first issue that can’t be answered is the health of Thailand’s beloved King Bhumibol, who is now 83 years old. He is the world's longest reigning monarch, but elaborate birthday celebrations in December failed to mask concern over his health. More


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