‘Build, Build, Build’ and ‘cheap rice’ must continue

By: John Carlo Tria

Ensuring the 6% growth that economists have predicted for us this year is no easy task when you consider that our neighbors are slowing their own projections in the face of the global slowdown in trade.

There are three important items going for us to keep our growth up: the consumption expansion that is driving demand for goods, public spending in infrastructure, and investments that are entering the country.

Enabling these three items are two things: One, public spending via “Build, Build, Build” projects, which are employing more people directly, and spurring private infrastructure developments as well.

Second is the lowered retail prices of rice, that have allowed people to consume more things since the price of food is lower. Again, rice alone accounts for almost half of the food expenditure of more than half of Filipino families. Likewise, spending less keeps inflation down. When inflation remains low, purchasing power goes up. Hence, the lowered expense allows Filipino families to spend on other items. Between these two major factors, the result is that the economy is expanding, as more people are spending more money drawn from their higher earnings.

Little wonder why as far as the Social Weather Stations are concerned, hunger and self-rated poverty is down. (www.sws.org.ph).

Finance Assistant Secretary Tony Lambino said in a statement that “Build, Build, Build” comprises both the flagship projects, whose list was recently expanded from 75 to 100, and the tens of thousands of relatively smaller projects across the country ranging from roads,  airports and seaports to classrooms, evacuation centers and flood control works.

Citing a recent report by DPWH Secretary Mark Villar, Lambino said a total of 9,845 kilometers (km) of roads, 2,709 bridges, 4,536 flood control projects, 82 evacuation centers and 71,803 classrooms have already been completed under “Build, Build, Build” since June 2016.

Another pillar of growth especially in Region 6 is tourism. With Boracay in its midst and other attractions and festivals, including direct international flights to Kalibo and Iloilo, there is no reason why the region’s potentials should not expand. As I have written before, foreign tourist income is a direct cash injection in the economy, just like BPO and OFW income. With tourism surpassing these two other sectors as a portion of GDP, we can expect more jobs in this sector if the other destinations within Region 6 are explored.

In all, this unprecedented drive to build and the lowered cost of food what is keeping our economic growth strong, spurring the growth in other economic sectors. We hope government spending remains robust to keep our infrastructure build-up going. and we hope that suspending the rice tarrification will not lead to higher rice prices.  When these two policies fail to deliver, the growth in other sectors may be hampered.

Let’s all work to keep our economy growing. Our future growth will depend on it.

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