TERESA CEROJANO, AP
MANILA — The Philippine economy expanded at a 6.6 percent annual rate in October-December, the slowest pace of expansion for the year, though full-year annual growth clocked in at a relatively brisk 6.8 percent, officials said Thursday.
Economic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia said that robust domestic demand underpinned growth in the fourth quarter, helping to offset a contraction in agriculture and slowing government spending.
The 6.8 percent expansion for the year was at the high end of the government’s target of 6.0 to 7.0 percent growth. Growth in the past seven years has averaged 6.3 percent.
Brash-talking President Rodrigo Duterte inherited a relatively vibrant economy when he took office in June. He has pledged to slash the poverty rate, but investors are wary of his brutal anti-drug campaign that has left more than 7,000 dead and his rhetoric against the United States, other Western governments, the United Nations and human rights groups.
The 6.6 percent growth in October-December was lower than the 7.0 percent growth in the previous quarter but up from 6.3 percent growth in the last quarter of 2015.
Growth usually slows after a new president takes office, as investors adopt a “wait-and-see” attitude,” Pernia said.
He said the latest data were a “testament that our economy remains robust and is growing at a healthy and steady pace.”
He forecast that the economy would attain the 2017 official target of 6.5 to 7.5 percent annual growth. In the medium-term, that could accelerate to 7 to 8 percent in the medium-term.
Pernia said the government hopes to gain “upper middle-income” status for the Philippines. The would require raising gross national income per capita to over $8,000 from less than half that now. The government also aims to help 6 million out of 22 million Filipinos escape poverty by 2022.
The Philippines has a population of nearly 104 million people.