Duterte Fact Checks

FALSE: World Bank lauds Duterte for PH’s strong economy during pandemic

Rappler
FALSE: World Bank lauds Duterte for PH’s strong economy during pandemic
A World Bank official did praise the Philippines' economic growth, but this was in April 2019, before the coronavirus pandemic
At a glance:
  • Claim: The World Bank lauded President Rodrigo Duterte’s tax reform program and the Philippines’ strong economy even during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Rating: FALSE
  • The facts: The World Bank did commend the Duterte administration’s tax reform program but that was back in 2019, before the pandemic hit. During the pandemic, the World Bank had projected that the Philippine economy would recover slower compared to its Southeast Asian peers.
  • Why we fact-checked this: A reader emailed the post containing this claim for verification. As of writing, the post had over 327,000 views, 12,800 shares, 24,100 reactions, and 1,400 comments.
Complete details:

An online post claimed the World Bank praised the Duterte administration for its tax reform program and the country’s strong economy even during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Facebook page “Matang AGILA” posted on Sunday, March 14, a news clip from SMNI News Channel. The page then captioned the video: “Duterte lang talaga ang Malakas! Reporma sa Tax hinangaan ng World Bank at dahil dito mas lalong lumalakas ang ekonomiya ng Pilipinas sa kabila ng kinakaharap na Pandemic. #TatakDuterte.”

(Duterte is the only strong one! The World Bank praised the tax reform program, which is why the Philippine economy is getting even stronger in spite of the pandemic.)

Comments on the post also linked the World Bank’s statement to the Duterte administration’s handling of the COVID-19 crisis.

This is false. Although the news report used in the video clip is real, the statement from the World Bank was made back in April 2019 when there was no COVID-19 pandemic yet. During the pandemic, the World Bank had projected that the Philippine economy would recover slower compared to its Southeast Asian peers.

The statement came from Lalita Moorty, currently regional director for Europe and Central Asia at the World Bank. In 2019, when Moorty was still the director of macroeconomics, trade, and investment at the institution, she praised the Duterte administration for implementing a “proactive and forward-looking” comprehensive tax reform program.

“It is actually quite a change to see a country that is taking a very forward-looking approach to reforms. The Philippines is posting really fast growth rates, about 3 times of what we see in Europe and Central Asia. I think this is a good time to do these tax reforms. It is a good time and you have seized it. That is quite impressive,” the Department of Finance quoted Moorty as saying during the Philippine Day Forum in Washington, DC, on April 11, 2019.

The COVID-19 pandemic, meanwhile, hit in 2020. In September that year, the World Bank projected the Philippine economy would contract by 6.9% in 2020, and as much as 9.9% in the worst-case scenario. This was worse than the World Bank’s projections for Thailand, Vietnam, and China. (READ: Philippine economy to recover slower vs most peers – World Bank)

Official figures released by the Philippine Statistics Authority in January 2021 showed that the Philippine economy contracted by 9.5% in 2020, its worst contraction since World War II. The Philippines also suffered the sharpest plunge compared to other economies in Southeast Asia.

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In October 2020, a World Bank survey also showed “a high degree of uncertainty” for the future among Philippine businesses. “As the economy reopens, this could result in a lower desire for risk-taking and additional investments,” the World Bank said.

A reader emailed the false post to Rappler for verification. As of writing, the post had over 327,000 views, 12,800 shares, 24,100 reactions, and 1,400 comments. – Pauline Macaraeg/Rappler.com

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