D82
21 November 1996

PHILIPPINES COUNTRY ECONOMIC BRIEF


Economic reform, strong GNP growth, falling inflation and strong export growth for Australia are the key messages in the latest Country Economic Brief on the Philippines, prepared by analysts from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Manila.

The Philippines economy continued to grow strongly in the first half of 1996 with real GNP growth of 5.1% making the Government's full year GNP growth target of 6.5% to 7.5% a realistic target.
Reform of the economy, which began under the Aquino Administration and has been pursued vigorously under President Ramos, has placed the Philippines in a good position to benefit from continued sustainable economic growth. Importantly the government is committed to ensuring the benefits of this growth are shared across the population. This objective has been assisted by the improved inflation performance over the past few years with inflation for 1996 expected to fall within the government's range of 7.5% to 8.5%.

Australia's exports to the Philippines continue to grow strongly. In 1995-96 exports were valued at $1.1 billion, a 28% increase over 1994-95 and the first time Australia's exports to the Philippines have broken the $1 billion mark in a one year period.

While the Philippines has experienced a slow down in the growth of exports it still recorded an impressive growth rate of 19.4% in the first half of 1996, which is above the average growth level for the past 10 years. With import growth also growing strongly, on the back of strong capital investment, the overall trade deficit is widening but the current account deficit continues to decline as a proportion of GDP due to the growing inflow of income from Filipinos working overseas.

President Ramos has pursued his political agenda very effectively. He has achieved this through astute alliance building and by projecting the image of a responsible, consensus-oriented hands-on leader. He has pursued major programs of national political reconciliation with various insurgent groups, the major successes of which have been bringing into the political fold military rebels and the signing in early September of a peace accord with the main Muslim militant group, the Moro National Liberation Front, thus bringing to an end a 24 year insurgency.

Under the 1997 Constitution, President Ramos is barred from seeking a second term. Early jockeying for the presidential elections has already begun and will intensify during 1997. The challenge now is to ensure that the Administration's legislative program is bedded down before the race for the Presidency becomes the main focus of attention.

The latest Country Economic Brief on the Philippines provides a comprehensive range of facts and figures, assessment of economic and political developments and coverage of the bilateral relationship. It is available at a cost of $30.00.

Contact: David Garner, DFAT, Phone (06) 261 2097

For further information, please contact Anthony Taylor, Media Liaison Section,
DFAT on (06) 261 1555.