A LEFTIST lawmaker on Friday chided Palace officials for playing down the marked slowdown in the economy, which grew only 5.8 percent in 2015.
Kabataan party-list Rep. Terry Ridon, member of the Makabayan bloc in the House, noted that gross domestic product growth has slowed down from a peak of 7.1 percent in 2013, to 6.1 percent in 2014, and to only 5.8 percent last year.
“These figures offer a bleak economic fore cast for the coming year. Yet what we are more appalled about is the fact that Malacañang officials… still have the gall to heap praises on the administration,” Ridon said.
Instead of discussing the economic downturn as it is, Ridon said, presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda and Budget Secretary Florencio Abad “twisted the data to downplay, and even hide” the slowdown.
He said Lacierda “obfuscated reality” by using terms
like “six-year moving average,” which masked the actual slowdown taking place.
In a statement, Lacierda said the 5.8-percent full-year GDP growth is an “encouraging result” that is “in line with the government’s commitment to growth that is both inclusive and sustainable.”
This was far from the truth, Ridon said.
“The truth is that since 2014, our country has been experiencing an economic downturn, which actually signals the coming of a greater crash. Lacierda and the Aquino administration want to whitewash that fact, and glaze it over with sweet euphemisms,” Ridon said.
Ridon noted that in 2015, the government’s fiscal managers actually projected a 7-8 percent GDP growth, as reflected in the 2015 National Expenditure Program.
“We’re way off-target, and this has serious implications, even for the country’s national budget,” he said.
Ridon also noted that while the fourth quarter GDP rebounded to 6.3 percent, thus becoming the highest quarterly growth for the year, the growth is still slower than the 6.6 percent posted in the same period last year.
“Analyzing these figures, we can see that the main driver of growth remains to be the service sector, which provides service and not actual products, which include banking, real estate, education, and media. This reflects our nation’s continued failure to address growth drivers in the industry and agriculture sectors,” Ridon said.
The lawmaker noted that while the service sector posted a 6.7-percent growth in 2015, up from 5.9 percent posted the previous year, both industry and agriculture sectors decelerated.
Industry growth contracted to 6.0 percent in 2015 from the 7.9 percent posted in 2014. Growth in agriculture, meanwhile decelerated to 0.2 percent in 2015 from 1.6 percent in 2014.
“We are particularly concerned about the steady and continued contraction of the agriculture sector, which remains to be one of the largest source of employment in the country. The Philippines is an agricultural country, yet the agriculture sector now only comprises about 10 percent of the GDP,” Ridon said.
Given the current economic situation, the lawmaker expressed concern over the effect of external shocks to the economy in the coming years.
“There are several external shocks that we need to take into consideration: the intensifying slowdown experienced by China, falling commodity prices, the Eurozone debt problems, and falling oil prices. All these paint a bleak economic outlook for the next sitting president,” Ridon said.
“The Philippine economy can be largely affected by the volatile global situation. What we need is to focus on domestic job generation and the uplifting of the people’s incomes. These are more stable sources of demand and economic growth that will help us weather through the impending world economic downturn,” Ridon said, adding that employment generation has been sluggish under the Aquino administration.
Opposition candidate for president Vice President Jejomar Binay vowed he would create more jobs in the provinces by improving agriculture to address widespread poverty, especially in rural areas.
Binay reiterated his emphasis on agriculture following the release of the National Economic and Development Authority report that showed the agricultural sector only grew by 1.6 percent from 2011 to 2015.
“Economic growth is meaningless unless it provides jobs for our people, especially in the rural areas,” Binay said.
The agriculture sector’s growth during the Aquino administration is second to the last in ranking among past five presidents.
“The agricultural sector had a very imperceptible growth last year at 0.2 percent. Agriculture, despite being the dominant sector, is the least productive under the present administration,” Binay said.
Binay stressed the need to revitalize agriculture and said his administration will strive to create a business environment that will attract investors in agriculture to generate more jobs.
He said his administration will create economic zones in key agricultural provinces, and train farmers to shift from subsistence farming to agribusiness.
“The stagnation of the agriculture sector and the administration’s continued neglect of this vital sector is a serious cause for concern,” he added.