Economy healthy, not ‘in doldrums’ —Diokno

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Sec. Benjamin Diokno.

The Philippine economy is in the pink of health based on recently released data despite President Rodrigo Duterte’s warning the Philippine economy is “in the doldrums,” Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno said yesterday.

“You look at the facts – not impressions, not perceptions, but the hard facts, and you’ll be convinced that it’s not the case,” Diokno told media yesterday.

Diokno cited government spending that reached P292 billion in May 2018 which was P30.2 billion or 12 percent higher from a year ago as sustaining the economic momentum.

“The growth drivers of spending in May continue to be Infrastructure and Other Capital Outlays, as well as Personnel Services. This puts government spending for the first five months of the year at P1.325 trillion, higher by P265 billion or 25 percent from the same period last year,” Diokno said.

“We continue to make strides in the fiscal sector of the economy, and this is confirmed by the spending data,” Diokno added.

Diokno said high government spending “should translate to better outcomes in the real economy, that is more jobs for our people, improved standards of living, and robust economic activity,” he added.

Infra spending up
Infrastructure spending amounted to P58 billion, surging by P12 billion or 26 percent as the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) completed various projects such as road concreting, widening and improvement; construction of bypass or diversion roads and flood control structures, and the reconstruction, rehabilitation and repair of roads and bridges.

The repair and rehabilitation of school buildings of the Department of Education (DepEd) and acquisition of medical equipment and facilities under the Health Facilities Enhancement Program of the Department of Health (DOH) also contributed to the rise in infrastructure spending, Diokno said.

He expressed optimism foreign investors will not be discouraged by the recent remarks of the President, saying investors are intelligent people who know facts and “discount statements coming from the political side.”

“The Philippines now is very attractive to foreign investors. People say we’re the number one choice as an investment destination. So let’s not change the conversation. We’re in a very good place. We’re doing very well,” he explained.

Diokno also noted the Philippines is “bound to be one of the fastest, if not the fastest, growing economies in the fastest growing region in the world.”

Recent data show the Philippine economy grew 6.8 percent in the first quarter of 2018 from a year ago, among the fastest in the region but still below the official full-year target of seven to eight percent.

Inflation has also been on the rise and the peso has recently slid to its lowest rate in 12 years on the back of a widening trade deficit.