Philippines cuts 2018 GDP growth goal, raises inflation targets

October 16, 2018 - 5:35 PM
1162
Graph showing inflation
The Philippine central bank raised its benchmark interest rate by 25 basis points (bps) on Thursday, its fifth hike this year, saying further policy tightening was needed to curb inflationary pressures. (Philstar/File photo)

MANILA — The Philippine government has shaved its economic growth target for this year and raised inflation forecasts for 2018 and 2019, reflecting caution as soaring consumer prices curb expansion in one of Asia’s fastest growing economies.

The economy grew 6.0 percent in the second quarter, the slowest in almost three years, raising the challenge for a government that is funding a multibillion infrastructure overhaul and grappling with rising inflation.

The gross domestic product growth target for this year was reduced to 6.5-6.9 percent from 7-8 percent previously, the government’s Development Budget Coordination Committee said in a statement. The growth goal for 2019-2022 was kept at 7-8 percent.

“We remain optimistic but we also have tempered our optimism with prudence and good judgment,” Economic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia told a media briefing.

The committee raised its inflation forecast for this year to 4.8-5.2 percent from 4.0-4.5 percent previously, and for 2019 to 3-4 percent from 2-4 percent.

Inflation hit 6.7 percent in September, the highest in almost a decade, amid costlier food and fuel, prompting the government to suspend a further increase in excise tax on fuel from January 2019.

Annual inflation could increase further in October, and should peak by the fourth quarter, Felipe Medalla, a member of the central bank’s monetary board, said at the briefing.

From 2020 through 2022, the government has kept its inflation forecasts at 2-4 percent. “This is consistent with the government’s assessment that inflation will go back to the target level by next year,” the committee said.

Philippine exports are forecast to grow only 2 percent this year and 6 percent in 2019, both slower than the previous estimate of 9 percent each.

The dollar/peso estimate was revised to 52.50-53 for 2018 from 50-53 before. For 2019-2022, the exchange rate forecast was adjusted to 52-55 from 50-53.

The peso has been languishing at 13-year lows versus the greenback, trading at 54.07 on Tuesday. — Reporting by Karen Lema and Neil Jerome Morales; Additional reporting by Enrico dela Cruz; Writing by Manolo Serapio Jr.; Editing by Shri Navaratnam and Gopakumar Warrier