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“IN THE land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king,” thus sums the economic growth of Northern Mindanao as compared to other regions in the Philippines.

Although Northern Mindanao is currently the fastest growing and still the largest economy in the country last year, the national economic growth plummeted.

Northern Mindanao Knowledge Division Chief Cecilio Clarete of the National Economic Development Authority (Neda) made the conclusion when he gave economic updates of the country and the region during the Communication and Advocacy Program for the Medium Term National and Regional Development Plan Task Force (CAP-TF) meeting last week at Cagayan de Oro Neda Office.

From 2006 to 2007, the country’s economic growth rate was 7.1 percent while the region had 7.7 percent growth during the same period.

Meanwhile, from 2007 to 2008, the country’s economic growth rate dived to 3.8 percent while Northern Mindanao’s growth rate was recorded at 5.3 percent.

Despite the contraction in its economic growth rate, the region still managed to outpace the National Capital Region (NCR) that same year.

Northern Mindanao’s share in the national gross domestic product (GDP) last year was 5.0 percent.

Clarete said the agriculture sector recorded the largest expansion among sectors last year, outperforming the usual growth contributors of the region, services and industry sectors, at the time when the global financial crisis ravaged most of the economic sectors.

Last year, the agriculture sector contributed 10.7 percent while services marked a paltry of 2.3 percent and the industry sector at 4.2 percent. In the services sector’s subcomponent, trade nose-dived from 10.7 percent in 2007 to 1.6 percent last year.

“In times of crisis, we can always lean back to agriculture. Although we project to be an industrial and trade region, we cannot neglect the agriculture sector,” Clarete said.

The global economic crunch, he added, greatly affected manufacturing — a subsector of the industry sector. Last year, mining and quarrying was a disappointment as it contributed a measly 0.7 percent to the gross regional domestic product (GRDP).

Yet, Northern Mindanao sustained its position as the third highest per capita in the GRDP and second in terms of per capita growth in the national economy.

Engr. Leon Dacanay Jr., acting regional director of Northern Mindanao Neda, said the slowdown in the exports and investments sectors due to the global economic crunch played another factor in the dismal GDP growth outlook for the region this year.

Exacerbating this, according to Dacanay, is the widening budget deficit in the national budget because of tax revenue leakages.

“We would still need more tax revenues to pump prime our economy,” he said. This prompted them to move the deadline to balance the budget from 2008 and 2010 to 2011, he added.

Dacanay said with this economic outlook for the country and the region, the fiscal policy of national government is “expansionary yet prudent.”

“The key growth driver for this year would be the construction sector,” he said.

Under the fiscal policy, Dacanay said, the national government would realign the budget to “fast-moving infrastructure projects and front-loading of resources.”

He said the real estate and business process outsourcing (BPO) sectors would benefit from the global economic slowdown, complementing positive prospects from agriculture and tourism sectors.

Dacanay said the national government would protect the sectors most vulnerable to the economic slowdown by expanding social protection programs and increase the purchasing power of these sectors.

(This article first appeared on SunStar Cagayan de Oro’s November 8, 2009 Issue.)

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