Philippines is broadly in line with 2017 growth target: minister

Philippines is broadly in line with 2017 growth target: minister

The Philippine economy grew at a 6.4% clip in the first quarter of 2017, falling short of market expectations.

Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia said the growth was faster than other countries like Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam.

Gross domestic product grew 6.4 percent in January to March from a year earlier, below forecasts for 6.8 percent growth and the slowest since the last quarter of 2015. The rate for the first quarter of 2016, an election year, had been 6.9%.

"With robust growth and rising inflation, the space for the central bank to maintain its policy stance is closing", said ANZ economist Eugenia Victorino who expects a 50-basis-point hike in rates this year.

"It is, however, lower than desirably expected, and for this we were somewhat downcast because we were expecting something like around the midpoint of growth range 6.5-7.5 percent".

Services-accounting for about half of GDP-rose 6.8% from a year earlier, while the industrial sector expanded 6.1%.

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Meanwhile, Pernia said agriculture grew by 4.9 percent after several quarters of negative growth or decline, contraction of the agriculture sector.

Double-digit increases in the imports of iron and steel, machinery and equipment, also suggested the economy ended the first quarter on a solid footing. Construction growth slowed to a 0.9% gain from 11% in the previous quarter.

"The changing of the guards of the government and reorientation of programs really take time to settle, and this slowed government spending for the quarter", Pernia said.

Pernia said to sustain the growth momentum of exports, it is important to ease government regulation, strengthen market intelligence gathering with the help of the private sector, and maximize trade agreements and economic groupings, especially with our Asean neighbors.

Mr Pernia said the slowdown could be explained by the absence of election spending, which boosted growth a year earlier.

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