PH may not be ready for ASEAN integration – expert

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Former NSCB Secretary-General Romulo Virola says there are 'more bad than good news' in the Philippine economy

MANILA, Philippines – A former Secretary General of the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB) said the Philippines may not be ready to benefit from the planned ASEAN market integration by 2015 as the local economy offers “more bad news than good news.”

In a Statistically Speaking issue, former NSCB Secretary General Romulo A. Virola said the Philippines is in an “even more wobbly” position now than 8 years ago compared to its ASEAN neighbors.

Virola said indicators show that other countries is doing better than the Philippines. He said the Philippines can only hope that 2012 will be a good year and it will be able to regain what it lost to other countries in the ASEAN in the past few years.

“It doesn’t look like we’re ready to benefit from ASEAN integration since the competition is doing better than us. But if we’re serious about ASEAN integration, Filipinos are talented, we only need to find a way how to do it,” Virola told Rappler in a phone interview.

Numbers say it all

Virola said the Philippines’ economic performance, although strong, has continued to lag behind countries in the ASEAN especially in terms of employment rate; tourism, life expectatancy, and cellular subscription.

He said that economically, the Philippines has been overtaken by Indonesia and Vietnam. The ratio of the country’s per capita Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to that of Vietnam has been eroded from 2.32 in 2002 to 1.81 in 2010.

Virola said other factors where the country is not doing well included:

  • export growth, which is now the slowest in the region;
  • foreign direct investment inflows, which have the 2nd slowest annual growth rate in ASEAN;
  • unemployment rate, which was either highest or second highest (after Indonesia) in the region between 2002 and 2008;
  • standing as a tourist destination, which has not moved up from 6th place in the region since 2002;
  • life expectancy, which has declined to 4th lowest in the 2008 to 2011 period;
  • mobile cellular subscriptions per 100 individuals, down to 4th lowest in 2010 to 2011; and
  • education, which showed that the country only had the 4th highest number of teaching staff while having the 2nd highest gross enrolment ratio in secondary education.

“Statistics show that there are more bad news than good news. Eight years ago, we wrote how wobbly we were compared to our ASEAN neighbors. Sadly, based on the statistics presented, the Philippines appears to be even more wobbly. But let us not lose hope,” Virola said.

Virola cited the good news:

  • the GDP growth and GDP per capita improved from 2nd lowest in 2002 to 2004 to 5th highest in 2005 to 2010;
  • the fiscal deficit as a percentage of GDP has gone down from 5.4% in 2002 to 3.9% in 2009;
  • the pupil-teacher ratio fell from 35 in 2002 to 31 in 2009 for primary education, and from 38 in 2002 to 35 in 2009 for secondary education; and
  • the Philippines’s adult literacy rate remains the highest in ASEAN.

“We can win victories and we will win victories. But only if we work hard. Together. (This can happen) only if we succeed in designing strategies to convert our weaknesses into strengths,” he added. –

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