By Beting Laygo Dolor i Contributing Editor
A recent upgrade in the Philippines’ credit rating along with a record high in the Duterte administration’s satisfaction rating generated an upbeat feeling about the country’s prospects for the near and medium term.
At the end of the first quarter of 2019, S&P Global Ratings upgraded the country by a notch, from BBB to BBB+, or a score of “stable” where investments are concerned. The score is expected to remain in place for the next six months to two years.
For the same period, a Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey showed the net satisfaction rating of the Duterte administration at +72, classified as “excellent.” The score is a record high for the President, whose previous top score was at +70 in December of 2017.
While the Duterte administration scored well in most categories – from fighting crime to eradicating graft and corruption – it only scored a modest +22 in battling inflation.
The relatively low score may be due to the steady rise in inflation in the second half of last year but latest figures show it may already be contained this year. The latest figures for the economy are expected to be released this week and the government is expecting inflation which had been averaging at the six percent level in the second semester of 2018 to ease to within the 2.7 to 3.5 percent range for the first quarter of 2019.
In what may be the best news for the Philippine economy under President Duterte, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) last week predicted continued moderate growth for the country this year, despite what is expected to be an “uncertain” business environment throughout the region.
Gross domestic product (GDP) growth for this year as well as next year is seen to hit 6.4 percent, slightly higher than last year’s 6.2 percent GDP, according to the ADB.
GDP is the sum total of all the goods and services produced by a country’s economy, excluding earnings from overseas based workers.
While President Duterte was out of the public eye for a week, Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said the administration’s high ratings was a “hard slap” to critics who “doubted the President’s policies.”
Panelo explained that the Chief Executive needed personal time off for paper work. A photo released by the Palace showed the President at his Davao residence watching the movie Django Unchained on Netflix.
Panelo slammed detractors who “never gave the leadership of President Duterte a chance to show them his competence.”
Two other global ratings agencies – Fitch Ratings and Moody’s Investors Service – also gave the Philippine economy stable outlooks for the short to medium term, although both scores were one notch lower than what S&P had given the country.
The upbeat mood of the administration comes one week before the mid-term elections, which is widely seen as a judgment of the Filipino people on Duterte’s administration ending in 2022.