By Alito L. Malinao
MANILA, June 7 (Xinhua) -- The anti-corruption drive launched by the Philippine government, the massive infusion of public funds in infrastructure projects, and the fiscal reforms instituted by the administration of Philippine President Benigno Aquino are now paying off.
In fact, Moody's Analytics, the economic research unit of Moody 's Investors Services, has raised its economic growth forecast for the Philippines this year to 4.7 percent from 4 percent.
In its latest report on the Philippines, Moody's cited the government's anti-corruption drive and big push for infrastructure development as factors could help attract foreign investors and speed up the country's economic growth.
The upward revision of the forecast by Moody's came on the heels of an official announcement by the government that the Philippines posted a 6.4-percent growth in its gross domestic product (GDP) in the first quarter, the second-fastest growth rate for the period in Asia after China's 8.1 percent.
The revision also coincided with the release of a report by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), the country's central bank, that the combined net income of universal and commercial banks operating in the country surged by 41 percent in the first quarter of the year to 30.45 billion pesos (703.31 million U.S. dollars) from 21.66 billion pesos (500.29 million U.S.) in 2011.
Monetary officials here said the favorable performance of the banking sector in the first three months of the year indicated its capability to help further stimulate economic growth in the remainder of the year.
According to Moody's, the Aquino administration's focus on good governance was "tickling the interest" of investors on the Philippines, which used to be out of the radar screen of most foreign firms.
Moody's Analytics also expressed confidence that the promotion of public infrastructure among potential investors from the private sector would significantly boost investments in the remainder of the year.
The Aquino administration has promised to speed up the implementation of its Public-Private Partnership (PPP) program this year.
Moody's Analytics said that the twin policy of lifting infrastructure and reducing corruption could help shore up both domestic and foreign direct investments, thus boosting the economy 's long-term growth prospects.
The government's economic managers have expressed confidence that with the unexpected 6.4 percent GDP growth in the first quarter, the country would be able to achieve its full-year growth target of 5-6 percent.
The economy grew by a dismal 3.7 percent last year, one of the lowest among the emerging economies in the region.
Another good news for the Philippines is that it has improved its standing as a business destination, particularly in terms of market access, ranking 72nd out of 132 countries on the World Economic Forum's enabling trade index.
According to "The Global Enabling Trade Report 2012," the Philippines climbed by 20 notches up the index from the previous 92nd spot in 2010, reflecting what was perceived as a reduction in trade barriers.
The Global Enabling Trade Report 2012 measures the factors, policies and services that facilitate the trade in goods across the borders of 132 countries. It includes the areas of market access, border administration, transport and communications infrastructure, and business environment.
The Philippines, in particular, showed a remarkable improvement in the area of market access, where it jumped 50 notches to No. 14 from being No. 64 in 2010.
The market access sub-index measures the extent to which the policy framework of the country welcomes foreign goods into the country and enables access to foreign markets for its exporters, according to the report.
In terms of efficiency of import-export procedures, the country took the No. 48 spot, also an improvement from the No. 55 position posted in 2010.
The report says that the Philippines, however, continues to lag in terms of transparency of border administration, ranking a dismal 117th out of the 132 countries.
These findings have prompted Trade Secretary Gregory L. Domingo to assure foreign investors that the government would continue its efforts to reduce trade barriers and further improve the business environment in the Philippines.
"It's been a long time coming, we're happy with the results, it shows that all our efforts this past two years are starting to pay off," Domingo said in a statement in response to the results of the 2012 Global Enabling Trade Report.
Domingo attributed the country's improvement in rankings to the Department of Trade and Industry's efforts to facilitate trade across borders such as the Doing Business in Free Trade Areas ( DBFTA), an awareness campaign that was aimed at helping various stakeholders understand the emerging and new markets, as well as instruments such as free trade agreements (FTAs).