MANILA, Philippines — As stock markets crashed with the continued spread of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV), the country’s socioeconomic planning chief expressed confidence yesterday that Philippine economic growth would not go lower than last year’s 5.9 percent rate.
Secretary Ernesto Pernia, who also chairs the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), told “The Chiefs” last night on Cignal TV’s One News that the adverse impact of the 2019-nCoV contagion could be offset by other sectors contributing to economic growth.
“I’m not expecting a lower growth rate this year,” Pernia said. “We have other bigger contributors to GDP.”
Analysts have warned that the tourism sector and downstream industries could lose billions as a result of the nCoV threat.
In the Calabarzon region covering Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon, economic activities have also suffered from Taal Volcano’s continuing unrest.
Pernia, however, said this would not cause serious setbacks to overall economic growth. He said rebuilding the areas devastated by ashfall around Taal Volcano would also mean greater public spending.
He said this year’s growth would still be fueled by robust remittances from overseas Filipino workers, consumer spending as well as increased public spending on infrastructure under the ambitious Build, Build, Build program.
Last year’s 5.9 percent Gross Domestic Product growth was lower than expected, pulled down by the nearly five-month delay in the approval of the 2019 national budget, which slowed down public spending and derailed Build, Build, Build.
Asked if the government was projecting economic deceleration this year as a result of the problems, Pernia told The Chiefs that GDP growth for 2020 “would not go lower” than 5.9 percent.
The Cabinet is meeting this week to discuss the potential economic impact of nCoV and appropriate responses.