MANILA, Feb. 18 (Xinhua) -- Philippine economy could still grow by as much as 7.5 percent in the first quarter of the year despite the lingering effects of natural disasters which struck the country in the last quarter of 2013, officials of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) said Monday.
Socioeconomic Planning Secretary and NEDA Director General Arsenio M. Balisacan said achieving a 6.5-7.5 percent gross domestic product (GDP) growth is "possible" in the January to March period.
Balisacan said one of the possible sources of growth in the first quarter is the rehabilitation of disaster-stricken areas nationwide.
The government's full-year GDP growth target is 6.5-7.5 percent. To achieve this, he said GDP hike in the first to fourth quarters of the year should be within this range or better.
NEDA Assistant Director General Rosemarie Edillon expressed confidence that economic growth for the whole year would fall within the 6.5-7.5 percent target.
Edillon said the rehabilitation and reconstruction of areas struck by a magnitude 7.2 earthquake and super typhoon Haiyan ( local name: Yolanda) would be a key driver of economic growth for 2014.
Despite this, she said the rehabilitation and reconstruction effort is not taken into account in the composite leading economic indicator (LEI).
The first quarter LEI released by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) on Thursday indicated that economic growth in the first quarter may slowdown.
PSA said negative contributors for the LEI were total merchandise imports, stock price index, money supply, visitor arrivals, foreign exchange rate, electric energy consumption, wholesale price index, and hotel occupancy rate.
The LEI tracks the behavior of indicators that consistently move upward or downward before the actual expansion or contraction of overall economic activity.
University of Asia and the Pacific Economist Cid Terosa agrees with the results of the LEI, saying that GDP growth for the first quarter of 2014 may be lower than the 7.7 percent registered a year ago.
Terosa said Philippine economy may grow by 5.5-6.5 percent in January to March. He said spending by households and the government will drive GDP growth during the period.