Economy: What should the next president focus on?

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(File photo)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — During the Philippine Economic Briefing at the Philippine International Convention Center late last month, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan disclosed the country's robust economic growth throughout the Aquino administration: "We have grown by an average of 6.2 percent over the last 5 years – the strongest since the mid-1970s."

"Our financial system is healthy. Inflation is low and stable, staying within the target," he added. "Interest rates are favorable for business, and the whole banking system is generally sound."

According to latest government figures, inflation slowed to an annualized 0.4 percent in September, marking the fifth consecutive month for the figure to drop to a two-decade low. Late last month, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) decided to maintain its interest rates.

The BSP also said that the end-of-September level of the country's gross international reserves is sufficient enough to cover 10.3 months’ worth of imports of goods and payments of services and income. It is also equivalent to 6.1 times the country’s short-term external debt based on original maturity and 4.4 times based on residual maturity.

Balisacan believes that the economy can still grow by 6.0 percent this year, despite a slower-than-expected increase of 5.3 percent during the first half of 2015.  "This performance will still make us as one of the best performers among the emerging economies, especially when one considers the general weakness of the global economy."

Should advanced economies recover next year, Balisacan said that the country's economic growth can accelerate towards 7 percent in 2016.

Not resting on laurels

With less than a year left before President Benigno Aquino III steps down, former Budget Sec. Benjamin Diokno believes that the next administration will still need to address several problems in order to foster greater economic growth.

In an interview with CNN Philippines, Diokno, who served as budget chief during the Estrada administration, said the country has the worst infrastructure among the five largest economies of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN-5), which include Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia.

“We have the worst road, railroad infrastructure and air transport infrastructure… We need better roads, air, and sea ports.”

According to the World Economic Forum's latest Global Competitiveness Index, the country ranks 90th out of 147 economies in terms of infrastructure.

Diokno also hopes for further development in the countries different regions.

"I think the next administration should have a big project for each of the regions and should be done simultaneously. These will create jobs and therefore boost the economy."

Likewise, he said that unemployment should also be one of the next administration's top concerns.

“Unemployment is by far the most important and the most difficult problem that we face… There’s a big chunk of unpaid employment like those who work for their relatives in sari-sari stores, as household help, [etc.]”

Institutional reform

For his part, Balisacan mentioned that need to strengthen and improve the state's institutions, "as these play a critical role in the development process."

"We need to develop and implement a structural reform agenda that will result in an environment that promotes healthy competition, fosters and rewards innovation and encourages entrepreneurship," he added.

CNN Philippines' Fiona Nicolas and Miro Capili contributed to this report.