‘PHL economy can hit ’19 growth this year’

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THE Philippine economy can still return to its prepandemic growth this year amid the fragile Covid-19 recovery and rising commodity prices, according to a fearless forecast by the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda).

Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick T. Chua said in a recent forum in New York that the economy continues to heal from the impact of the lockdowns imposed to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

Chua said growth is possible because of the progress in achieving the zero-to-10-point socioeconomic agenda which also provided the Philippines with strong foundations to better address the challenges of the pandemic.

“Without a doubt, the pandemic and its adverse economic impacts are indeed testing the Philippine economy like never before. But unlike past crises, the Philippines has solid fundamentals to address this crisis,” Chua said.

“It is very important at the outset to have a strong macroeconomy so that you have enough buffers and enough resources to withstand any shocks, and you can concentrate on improving the welfare of the people,” he added.

Chua explained that the zero to 10 socioeconomic agenda paved the way for the country to achieve its target of lifting 6 million Filipinos out of poverty in 2018, four years ahead of schedule.

“In 2015, poverty was estimated at 23.5 percent. By 2018, we had reduced it to 16.7 percent. Prior to the pandemic, we were very much on track to achieving 14 percent or less. The reason why we are able to do this is because of our commitment to the zero-to-ten point socioeconomic agenda,” said Chua.

The Neda chief also noted the administration’s notable achievements since 2016 – key reforms like the Amendments to the Retail Trade Liberalization Act, Foreign Investment Act, and the Public Service Act.These, he said, will help relax foreign ownership restrictions and increase competition that can improve the quality of goods and services at lower prices.

The government also enacted the Comprehensive Tax Reform Program, which helped fund more infrastructure and social services, and the Rice Tariffication Law in 2019, which supported rice farmers in improving their productivity and significantly lowering the price of rice.

EO No. 166 provides a 10-point policy agenda aimed at accelerating the economy’s recovery from the pandemic. It includes strategies such as reducing travel restrictions and accelerating the vaccination program, which will enable the economy to restart activity and bounce back.

“In the final months of the Duterte administration, we are vigorously pursuing the economy’s full recovery to restore jobs and bring more people out of poverty. Executive Order (EO) No. 166, signed a few weeks ago, fully opens the economy, and we are working on getting tourists back [and] getting travel back to as normal as possible,” he said.