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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Filipinos say economy no different from last year

FILIPINOS have yet to reap the benefits of high economic growth trumpeted by the Aquino administration over the past year, a survey released by Pulse Asia showed Wednesday.

About four in 10 (43 percent) Filipino adults said the state of economy was practically unchanged while nearly the same percentage found it either better or worse than in 2012 (28 percent as against 29 percent).

There is no significant movement in the figures between March and June 2013, Pulse Asia said, as showed by this distribution three months prior to the survey conducted from June 20 to July 4 (33 percent—better; 42 percent—same; and 24 percent—worse).

Visayas respondents were the most divided, with 39 percent saying the economy improved year-on-year, 32 percent noting no change, and 30 percent observing a worsening situation.

Optimism among residents in Metro Manila, the country's economic and financial center, dipped by 15 percentage points, from 40 percent in March to 25 percent in June.

Among those who indicated that the economy worsened, a small majority (56 percent) said they were affected by it while nearly half (49 percent) of those saying the economy grew felt such improvement.

The economy grew by 7.8 percent in the first quarter of 2013 but the number of jobless Filipinos rose to 3.086 million in April from 2.803 million from last year.

The government said it has been trying to spread economic growth.

In a speech on Tuesday, Deputy Director General Margarita Songco of the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) said the government is bent on achieving inclusive growth by increasing competitiveness and attracting investments to less developed regions.

"For the people, it would mean better opportunities for employment and having the ability to provide for a better life for their families. This also gives people more chances to contribute to the development of their community and their country," she said at the 1st Regional Competitiveness Summit in Makati City.

She noted that the highest poverty incidence as of first quarter of 2012 was recorded in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (Armm), Soccksargen, Eastern Visayas and Zamboanga Peninsula.

On the other hand, the regions which control 62 percent of the Philippines' economic activity (National Capital Region, Calabarzon and Central Luzon) had the lowest number of poor people.

Songco said they are formulating Area Development Plans to help transform less developed but resource-rich areas like Mindanao into globally competitive areas.

"The ADPs have identified specific areas based on natural economic units or natural resource boundaries that shall be given focus to boost development in the farthest areas of the country," she said.

In the same survey, nearly one in two Filipino households (49 percent) spent their money on food, followed by electricity (29 percent), medicine (9 percent), transportation (5 percent), water (2 percent), recreation expenditures (1 percent), cooking gas (1 percent) and cellphone load (1 percent).

The figures were essentially unchanged from March 2011.

Most Filipinos are concerned about the need to control prices of commodities (61 percent), which is a 10-percentage point jump from March.

The government, however, said inflation settled at 2.9 percent for the first half of the year, slightly below the official target of 3 to 5 percent for 2013.

Respondents also batted for higher pay (49 percent), more jobs (41 percent) and reduction in poverty (37 percent).

Concern for job creation also leaped by 10 percentage points from March to June, Pulse Asia said.

Filipinos are least worried by growing population, with only 11 percent saying it is an urgent national concern, up 5 percent compared to the March survey.

Among the events that took place during the survey period were the depreciation of the Philippine peso against the American dollar, plunge of the stock market after months of record performances, hike in gasoline prices and electricity bills of Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) customers, adjustment in water rates of Maynilad and Manila Water and the proposal to increase train fares in Manila’s railway systems.

The survey, which used face-to-face interviews with 1,200 people, has a ± 3 percent error margin at the 95 percent confidence level.
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