What lies ahead for the Philippine economy?
For the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), the prospects are good. Perhaps even very good.
The economy will likely grow by over seven percent this year, and be comparatively strong next year even as there are external and domestic challenges, according to the economic planning agency.
The optimistic projection by NEDA, however, runs counter to the less-than-rosy predictions by multilateral lenders, such as the International Monetary Fund and Asian Development Bank.
The two lending institutions see slower economic growth for next year compared to this year due to global shocks as well as high inflation and interest rates that may affect demand.
The administration’s economic managers have set a 6.5 to 7.5 percent gross domestic product growth target for this year.
In the third quarter, the economy grew by 7.6 percent, which is faster than the seven percent growth posted in the same period last year, and also higher than the revised 7.5 percent growth in the second quarter.
The economy just needs to grow by 3.3 to 6.9 percent in the fourth quarter to meet the growth target for this year.
For next year, the government is aiming for a 6.5 to eight percent GDP growth.
Is this target doable? We think so, especially if the 2023 budget recently approved by the House of Representatives passes muster at the bicameral conference committee level.
The proposed P5.268-trillion 2023 General Appropriations Bill contains a whopping P77 billion in institutional amendments by the House to augment the budget for education, health, transportation and other vital social services.
The various institutional amendments seek to directly uplift the people’s welfare.
Chief among these is the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s P12.5 billion that will fund the Assistance to Individuals in Crisis Situations or AICS (P5B); upgrade of the senior citizens’ pension through the National Commission of Senior Citizens (P5B); and the implementation of the Sustainable Livelihood Program (P2.5B).
The Department of Transportation will get P5.5-billion for programs addressing the rising cost of fuel: the fuel subsidy program (P2.5B), Libreng Sakay (P2B) and bike lane construction (P1B).
Meanwhile, the Department of Labor and Employment will have at its disposal P5 billion for the Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged/Displaced Workers (TUPAD) program as well as for livelihood generation.
The Department of Health will be kept busy all year long since it will get P20.25 billion more for various programs, such as Medical Assistance for Indigent Patients (P13B), healthcare and non-healthcare workers and frontliners (P5B); support for specialty hospitals (P2B); and the Cancer Assistance Program (P250M).
At the same time, the Department of Education has been allotted an extra P10 billion for its school and classroom construction and special education programs (P50M).
The Commission on Higher Education gets P5 billion for its Tulong Dunong Program, while the Technical Education Skills and Development Authority can spend P5 billion for its training and scholarship programs.
For its part, the Department of Public Works and Highways will receive P10 billion for the construction of water systems in underserved upland barangays, while the National Electrification Administration will get added funding in the amount of P50 million for its barangay and sitio electrification program.
And not to forget, the Department of Information and Communications Technology can definitely use an additional P1.5 billion for its national broadband project that will boost efforts to shift to a digital economy.
The Department of Trade and Industry can also rely on an extra P250 million to assist the creative industry pursuant to Republic Act 11904.
“We really feel that these institutional amendments will redound to the benefit of the people. And we are confident that the Senate and the House bicam members will see eye-to-eye on this. Our objectives are the same: to pass a people’s budget that reflects President Marcos Jr.’s 8-point economic agenda that will help the country bounce back from the pandemic,” House Speaker Martin G. Romualdez said.
House Appropriations Committee chairman and Ako Bikol Party-list Rep. Elizaldy Co worked in tandem with Speaker Romualdez to lend substance to the administration’s pledge to improve the delivery of social services to Filipinos:
“Our amendments can speak for themselves. What we did was to allocate more funds for pro-people initiatives without sacrificing our job creation programs. You can see that is indeed pro-people and pro-development as we prioritized health, education and transportation. We are confident that if the Senate and the House approve these amendments, we can recover well from the pandemic in 2023.”
With the legislative and executive branches of government working together as a team and collaborating on a pro-people and pro-development national budget, expect the economy to recover even faster from Covid-19 in 2023 and even well beyond.