World Bank: Philippines to remain one of fastest-growing economies in East Asia

The Philippine government is embarking on an ambitious $180 billion infrastructure program aimed at accelerating growth and creating 12 million new jobs through these projects. (Courtesy World Bank)
Updated 07 June 2018
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World Bank: Philippines to remain one of fastest-growing economies in East Asia

DUBAI: The Philippines would sustain its robust economic growth and remain one of the top-growing countries in East Asia and the Pacific until 2020, the World Bank said on Wednesday.
The Washington-based multilateral lender, in its latest report, projected the Philippine economy to grow 6.7 percent this year and in 2019, and 6.6 percent in 2020. The forecasts were however considerable lower than the government’s medium-term target of between 7 percent and 8 percent from 2018 until 2022.
“Growth in the Philippines and Vietnam remains robust, but capacity constraints (e.g., high capacity utilization rates) limit further acceleration, especially in the Philippines,” the World Bank’s June Global Economic Prospects report noted.
Among other East Asian and Pacific nations, Cambodia and Vietnam will outpace the Philippines’ gross domestic product (GDP) growth this year at 6.9 percent and 6.8 respectively, while China will lag a little at 6.5 percent GDP growth for 2018.
India’s economy, to which the Philippines is usually compared, is expected to grow by 7.3 percent this year and then accelerate to 7.5 percent in 2019 the year thereafter.
“Overall, the region benefits from solid fundamentals, including moderate domestic and external imbalances and significant policy buffers,” the World Bank noted in its report, although it cautioned some countries in the region continued to confront financial sector vulnerabilities.
The Philippines, including China and Vietnam, continues to experience fast credit growth while countries such as Malaysia, Laos and Thailand had to deal with elevated levels of debt. Cambodia and Vietnam also had to contend with their sizable fiscal deficits, the World Bank said in the report.
On a broader scale, the Bank said that regional growth would gradually moderate from a 6.8 percent clip in 2018 to 6.1 percent in the next two years.
“The slowdown in regional growth is largely due to the gradual structural slowdown in China the region’s largest economy. Activity in the rest of the region is expected to peak in 2018 and remain steady around its potential rate in 2019 and 2020,” the World Bank said. “The outlook is predicated on broadly stable commodity prices in the next two years, solid but moderating global demand, and a gradual tightening of global financing conditions.”


Philippines’ richest man Henry Sy dead at 94

Updated 19 January 2019
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Philippines’ richest man Henry Sy dead at 94

  • Henry Sy had a net worth of $19 billion as of Friday, according to Forbes.com
  • Sy helped create mall culture in the Philippines

MANILA: The Philippines’ wealthiest man Henry Sy, who rose from being a penniless Chinese immigrant to leading a multi-billion dollar business empire, died on Saturday, his conglomerate has announced.
The 94-year-old, from the Chinese city of Xiamen, made his fortune with a Philippine shopping center conglomerate that has put up some of the largest malls in the world.
However his holdings also included banks, hotels and real estate in the Philippines, as well as shopping centers in China.
He had a net worth of $19 billion as of Friday, according to Forbes.com.
Forbes said he was the 52nd richest person in the world last year, beating out bold name tycoons like Elon Musk, Rupert Murdoch and George Soros.
“Henry Sy ... passed away peacefully in his sleep early Saturday morning. There are no further details at the moment,” his SM group said in a statement.
Sy put up his first shoe store in downtown Manila in 1956, a business which later grew into a diversified empire.
He stepped down as chairman of his holding firm in 2017, assuming the title of “chairman emeritus” and leaving trusted allies as well as his children in charge of his empire.
It was a long journey for a man who came to the Philippines as a boy to work in his immigrant father’s variety store.
“Our store was so small it had no back or second floor, we just slept on the counter late at night after the store was closed,” he told the Philippine Star newspaper in 2006.
After their shop was destroyed during World War II, Sy’s father returned to China but Henry chose to stay in the Philippines.
He got a commerce degree from a Manila university and started selling shoes in a shop which would later grow into a chain named “ShoeMart.”
By 1972, his shops had branched out into selling all manner of goods, prompting the name to be changed to SM Department Store.
But it was in 1985 that Sy made history when he opened his first “Supermall” in Manila.
Spanning over 424,000 square meters (4.6 million square feet), the mall included dozens of stores, numerous cinemas, restaurants, banks and other attractions that made it a one-stop shop for millions of Filipinos.
This was just the start, as more of Sy’s mammoth malls popped up across the country, some even containing ice skating rinks, a rarity in the tropical country.
Sy helped create mall culture in the Philippines, where steamy temperatures and the regular threat of torrential downpours can make outdoor shopping uncomfortable.
Sy’s holding company, SM Investments Corp. opened its first mall in China in 2001 and has been expanding there as well.
By 2018, SM said it had 70 malls in the Philippines and seven in China as well as six hotels and eight office buildings.
Sy’s empire has earned its share of criticism from labor groups, who say it uses thousands of contractual hires to avoid paying higher wages and benefits that permanent workers are entitled to.
SM officials have insisted that they do not engage in so-called “contractualization,” but say they hire “seasonal” workers for peak periods like Christmas, back-to-school and even weekends.