Category : Press Release
Date : July 17, 2018
Agency : Investor Relations Office
Title : Philippines keeps favorable rating from Fitch - Debt watcher cites robust economic growth, well managed finances
Article : In a report released last Tuesday, Fitch Ratings said the Philippines’ existing investment grade rating of “BBB” remains intact. Fitch cited robust economic growth, government’s comfortable debt level, and policies supporting macroeconomic stability. The “BBB” is a notch above the minimum investment grade.

Fitch assigned a “stable” outlook, signaling that the rating is likely to remain unchanged within the next 12 to 18 months. Fitch expects the Philippines to maintain its “place among the fastest-growing economies in the Asia-Pacific region,” foreseeing “domestic demand to sustain strong growth of 6.8% in both 2019 and 2020.”

Fitch also said “improvement in [government] revenues should help preserve fiscal stability” even as the government pursues its bold infrastructure development agenda. In its infrastructure program, the government is set to increase spending on vital infrastructure annually from 6.1 percent of GDP this year to 7.3 percent by 2022.

Responding to the latest rating decision by Fitch, Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III said: “This is another recognition of the bold economic policy of the Duterte administration to fix the flawed tax system for the first time in over 20 years, and at the same time provide a steady revenue stream for its ‘Build, Build, Build’ infrastructure development initiative as well as for social programs that would accelerate poverty reduction and grow the middle class.”

Fitch also recognized the role of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) in helping keep the Philippine external accounts healthy, even amid challenges posed by the global economy. Fitch said the BSP’s flexible exchange rate policy will help keep the country’s foreign exchange reserves adequate, and will aid in maintaining the Philippines’ net creditor position vis-à-vis the rest of the world.

Welcoming the rating, Governor Nestor A. Espenilla, Jr. of the BSP said, “The BSP’s firm commitment to price stability conducive to a balanced and sustainable growth of the economy has allowed the Philippines to remain resilient amid external headwinds and to remain as one of the fastest growing economies in the region. This growth is sustainable under the auspices of the ‘Continuity Plus Plus’ agenda, where we not only build on strong frameworks, methods, and buffers already in place, but also undertake bold and purposeful financial sector reforms to make the banking and financial system and payments and settlements system more dynamic and truly inclusive.”

While Fitch raised concerns about overheating, it nonetheless reassured that the steps taken by the BSP may help address these risks. On inflation, Fitch reported that it expects average inflation to fall to around 3.8% in 2019 as the one-off impact of the tax hikes are likely to dissipate.

Concerns about overheating run counter to the BSP’s assessment. The BSP is confident that the Philippine economy will be able to maintain robust growth without causing runaway inflation on account of: (1) the government’s investments in infrastructure which will help boost the economy’s productive capacity; (2) economic growth remaining consistent with the economy’s potential output estimated at 6.5 to 7.0 percent; (3) banks’ observance of prudent lending standards, keeping their exposure to bad debts minimal and under which lending to real estate sector remains within regulatory threshold levels; and (4) private sector investments and productivity which continue to rise boosting the supply of goods and services in the economy.