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Daniel Moss

The Philippines Economy Is Great — By the Numbers

Bullish growth forecasts mask serious vulnerabilities at the ground level. Whoever wins the presidential election has a delicate task ahead.

All shiny and new.

All shiny and new.

Photographer: Daniel Moss/Bloomberg

The Philippines is having the kind of recovery that would make any emerging-market star envious. After a tough pandemic and deep recession, the economy will outpace many of its neighbors this year and leave China — once the gold standard for rapid expansion — in the dust. Whoever wins the presidential election in a few days will inherit a country poised for better things.

If only it were that simple. Bullish growth forecasts mask serious vulnerabilities apparent at the ground level. The contraction that followed the outbreak was the biggest in peacetime and has left deep scars. China, the nation’s biggest trading partner, is struggling to shore up growth at home — a troubling development for everyone in Asia. Infrastructure, a big priority of outgoing Philippines leader Rodrigo Duterte, is easing some bottlenecks but has a long way to go. Inflation is marching higher and interest-rate hikes loom. Many citizens still think the best way to make a living and support their families is to pack their bags and go abroad.