Encouraging economic data

It is too early to tell if the Philippine economic recovery has begun to take off but latest emerging data point to that direction, despite the number of shuttered business establishments and the millions of Filipinos still unemployed.

The Philippine Statistics Office reported the other day that exports and imports in April jumped 72 percent and 141 percent, respectively, amid the reopening of global trade and the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines here and across the globe. The sharp increase in trade figures, although coming from a low base in the comparative month in 2020, indicates that more Filipinos are rejoining the labor force in the export sector. The April export increase was the second consecutive month of positive year-on-year growth, following the 33.3-percent revised rise in March this year. The April figure also brought total export earnings of the Philippines in the first four months to $23.37 billion, up 19 percent from a year earlier.

The big increase in imports, meanwhile, suggests that manufacturers are beginning to ramp up their production in the short-term period. The sharp rise in inbound shipments is a reflection of business confidence. With more vaccines distributed across the nation and quarantine rules being eased, companies are getting a reassurance that increased consumption or demand will follow.

The import figures show that shipments of manufacturing inputs such as raw materials and intermediate goods jumped 119 percent in April while those of capital goods surged 105 percent. It is easy to predict from these import figures that factory production will later show a substantial improvement from their year-ago levels.

Net foreign investments, as recorded by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, meanwhile, surged 140 percent in March to $808 million from $337 million a year ago. The BSP attributed the rise to improved business sentiment following the rollout of vaccines and the gradual resumption of domestic activities.

Economic activities in the Philippines may be far off from the pre-pandemic level in 2019. But encouraging economic data tells us that the Philippines is treading the recovery path.

Topics: Philippine Statistics Office , COVID-19 , Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas , Economy
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