THE National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) on Wednesday said a 6-percent economic growth target this year remains achievable, but it will be no easy task, and the first order of the day is fighting inflation.
In a press briefing in Malacañang, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio M. Balisacan, who is Neda director general, laid out the conditions for the government to meet the “lower end” of its 6- to 7-percent gross domestic product (GDP) goal this year.
He noted it will involve stabilizing inflation amid rising fuel and rice prices.
“Well, the downside risk [for our GDP growth target] is the inflation, especially that the oil prices are picking up again, the global oil prices; the staples like rice in the global market, prices are also…they are also, you know, rising,” Balisacan said.
Transport groups are now demanding for a P2 fare hike after oil companies hiked the prices of gasoline by P1.10 per liter and P0.20 per liter for diesel.
Meanwhile, the Department of Agriculture (DA) reported the price for rice in Metro Manila now ranges between P43 and P65.
The Palace earlier said the government is trying to cushion the impact of higher prices on consumers through fuel subsidies, as well as increasing farm production and rice importation.
Another condition for achieving their GDP target, he said, is addressing government underspending during the second half of the year when the election ban for the 2023 Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan polls takes effect.
The ban will cover social welfare projects and barangay-funded roads and bridges will kick in from September to October.
“We have identified the sources of the [spending] slowdown and we think that we can speed up the implementation of projects and programs to benefit the economy for the second half of the year,” Balisacan said.
The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) said underspending agencies have already created their catch-up plans to boost their fund uses in the second half of the year.
The Neda chief made the statement after the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) said in a report that the government is likely to miss its 6 to 7 percent GDP growth targets from 2023 to 2025 due to prevailing global economic conditions, which includes high crude oil prices.
Not the right time
With the high food prices, Balisacan currently supports maintaining the Most Favored Nation (MFN) tariff rate for essential commodities under Executive Order No. 10.
He is referring to the reduced MFN tariff rates for meat of swine (fresh, chilled or frozen) at 15 percent (in-quota), 25 percent (out-quota); corn at 5 percent (in-quota) and 15 percent (out-quota); rice at 35 percent; and zero duty for coal.
The rates will expire by December.
“I would think that when it comes to now lifting those low tariffs for those essential commodities, my position is, probably not the right time,” Balisacan said.
But he noted his position on the matter may change depending on the economic conditions in the coming months.