by Roderick T. dela Cruz
Manila Standard Today
THE Philippines last year joined Asia’s emerging markets with an expanding middle class after it posted a per-capita gross domestic product of more than $2,000, according to economists.
That was double the country’s per capita income a decade ago, although it remains one of the smallest in Southeast Asia.
Per-capita income rose after the country’s gross domestic product grew 7.3 percent in 2010 while the peso appreciated by about 5 percent against the dollar during the same period.
Bangko Sentral Governor Amando Tetangco Jr. said last year’s GDP growth was the highest in 34 years, while inflation had been manageable.
“The 3.8 percent inflation rate for 2010, together with the fastest economic growth rate registered in decades, put our country in what some analysts have described as, the Goldilocks world, where everything is just right,” Tetangco said.
Bank of the Philippines Islands president Aurelio Montinola III said the $2,000 per-capita threshold was crucial for any developing economy. Reaching it marked a turning point for countries such as Thailand in growing their consumer market with a capacity to buy cars and houses.
Montinola, who is also president of the Bankers Association of the Philippines, confirmed that “2010 proved to be a good year for the banking industry and for BPI in particular.”
But former Economic Planning Secretary Cielito Habito said the Philippines’ per capita income, which used to be bigger than Thailand’s in the 1970s, was now just a third that of Thailand’s.
Just the same, banks were excited about the rising per capita income in the Philippines, which helped them grow their profit by a third last year.
Vehicle sales tripled last year, while property developers built thousands of new residential units because of the increasing demand from the new middle class—the Filipinos working abroad, business process outsourcing professionals, and the college-educated new entrants to the labor force.
The National Statistical Coordination Board placed the per capita gross domestic product of the Philippines in 2010 at P90,552 at current prices, while the Bangko Sentral said the peso averaged 45.1097 against the US dollar.
That translated to a nominal per capita GDP of $2,007.37 in the Philippines in 2010, which compares with less than $1,000 in 2000.
About 94 million Filipinos contributed to a total of P8.513 trillion GDP and P9.75 trillion GNP last year.
Per capita GDP was estimated at only $1,748 in 2009, or P83,261 using an average exchange rate of 47.637 to the dollar.
Per capita gross national product, which includes income from abroad, actually began exceeding the $2,000 mark in 2009, when it hit $2,005. That was based on a per capita GNP of P95,525 in peso terms, and computed at an average exchange rate of P47.637 to the dollar.
Per capita GNP climbed to $2,299.08 in 2010 based on an estimated per capita GNP of P103,711 in peso terms, and an average exchange rate of P45.1097 to the dollar.
Economic Planning Secretary Cayetano Paderanga said the government was committed to growing the economy by 7 to 8 percent annually over the next six years, although he refused to predict the peso’s direction against the US dollar.