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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs        29 January 2011

Philippines sees 7 percent yearly growth

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The Philippine economy is slowing down this year relative to 2010 when the country held national elections.

But not Bernardo Villegas, Ph.D.,a co-founder and trustee of the University of Asia and the Pacific (UA&P).

The economy as measured by the gross domestic product (GDP) would grow at least 7 percent in 2011 and in the years to follow, said Villegas, who has been called the "Prophet of Boom" for his rosy economic forecasts in the past. GDP, a key economic indicator, is the total cost of all final goods and services produced in the country in a year.

Earlier this year, the World Bank predicted that the Philippine economy would "stabilize" and settle down to "a medium 5 [percent] to 5.4 percent in 2011 and 2012 grounded in remittance-supported spending and further infrastructure development."

The GDP growth rate is expected to be released next week, but government officials earlier predicted an increase of 7 percent to 7.4 percent over the previous year.

For this year, the government predicts the economy to grow by 7 percent to 8 percent.

Villegas, a Harvard-educated economist, said during a media briefing, "In my experience, the worst forecasts come from the World Bank and IMF [International Monetary Fund]."

He conceded that 2010 benefited from election-related spending and from the last-quarter growth in the US economy that boosted Philippine exports, which was a mere blip. Worse, he added, exports might even slow down to 10 percent this year.

Still, Villegas insisted on his bullish forecast. In addressing his critics, he said, "My answer is investments, investments, investments."

In a prepared statement distributed at the briefing, he also credited remittances from overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), which could exceed $20 billion this year, and a good economic team assembled by President Benigno Aquino 3rd.

The primary drivers of growth would be infrastructure development, real estate and energy, Villegas said.

He added that he was equally bullish about a number of sectors, including business process outsourcing, agriculture, logistics, education and tourism.

The real bright spot, Villegas said, was that infrastructure development and real estate projects were being fueled by domestic capital-citing the numerous projects by the Sy family business empire and other large Filipino firms.

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