World Bank sees brighter outlook for RP

Growth inevitable, but poverty remains a problem

MANILA, Philippines – Acknowledging that the Philippines proved to be more resilient in the face of a global financial crisis than earlier anticipated, the World Bank retracted its forecast of a 0.5-percent contraction for the economy this year and set its new projection to a growth of 1.4 percent.

The World Bank likewise revised its outlook on the Philippines for 2010, from a growth of only 2.4 percent to 3.1 percent.

Eric Le Borgne, senior economist for World Bank Manila office, said remittances and the government’s stimulus programs spelled the difference between its old and new assumptions.

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Excise tax on oil products up 56% to P7.34 billion in first half

MANILA, Philippines – Excise tax on petroleum products went up by 56 percent to P7.344 billion in the first half of the year from P4.7 billion in the same period last year, the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) reported yesterday.

The latest collection figure is 64 percent higher than the revenue goal of P4.47 billion.

Collections went up as civil society groups have been urging the government to audit the books of oil companies to find out why local pump prices are going up.The Social Justice Society, a civil society group, urged government to audit the books of the so-called Big Three, the country’s three main oil players — Pilipinas Shell Petroleum Corp., Chevron Corp. and Petron Corp.

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Govt rejects higher oil taxes

World Bank’s proposal not a priority, says NEDA.

The Philippines on Wednesday brushed off a World Bank suggestion that it raise oil taxes to shore up revenues, saying it did not wish to hit people in the pocket amid a slowing economy that has already crimped consumer spending.

Raising oil taxes “will have a dampening effect on the economy since higher prices will discourage consumer spending,” Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ralph Recto said in a statement.

“We do not believe that a further [oil] tax increase should be a priority in the short term,” he added.

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World Bank sees RP slipping into recession

MANILA, Philippines – The World Bank has warned that the Philippines would slip into recession this year, saying government efforts to stimulate the economy would not be enough to revitalize foreign investments as the global turmoil continues to push businesses to the sidelines.

The foreign lender has projected that the Philippines would post a 0.5-percent contraction in its gross domestic product this year and thus join its neighboring countries that earlier reported a contraction of their economies.

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Ombudsman report on WB road mess out Wed

MANILA, Philippines - The Office of the Ombudsman is expected to release on Wednesday its report on the alleged bribery-ridden World Bank road projects that were linked to the husband of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

A GMA Flash Report on Monday quoted Assistant Ombudsman Mark Jalandoni as saying that in two days’ time, the government watchdog would release the result of its investigation, which was approved by Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez two weeks ago.

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WB blacklist

The Philippines is getting closer and closer to being blacklisted or debarred by the World Bank and other multilateral lenders.

Records of WB show that as of end 2007, the Philippines utilized more than $3 billion in loans from the bank. More than $800 million has not been drawn. The bank gave no reason why the government has not availed of the remaining amount.

A source close to the bank yesterday hinted that the first sign of trouble came when the Millennium Challenge, a corruption watchdog funded by American taxpayers evaluated the performance of the country in the fight against corruption and saw that it failed to qualify for bigger financial assistance.

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‘Gutierrez sat on WB report’

SEN. Manuel “Mar” Roxas II yesterday said Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez sat for 15 months on the World Bank report finding collusion in the bidding for road projects it is funding.

He said this was the impression he got when World Bank officials told senators during a briefing on Tuesday that they transmitted the report to the Ombudsman precisely for action.

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World Bank: Mike part of syndicate

THE World Bank had named presidential spouse Jose Miguel Arroyo as a participant in the rigging of biddings for WB-funded road projects and this information was relayed to the Ombudsman 15 months ago.

This surfaced after a briefing yesterday by WB officials of senators on an investigation in 2006, which found that a “cartel” of local and foreign contractors, assisted by public works officials and two “public figures,” had been colluding in bidding for contracts.

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New WB report probe panel up

First Gentleman Jose Miguel “Mike” Arroyo and the banned contractors may have been absolved by Sen. Miriam Santiago of their alleged participation in the bribery and bid-rigging controversy stemming from witnesses’ accounts as told to the World Bank (WB), but they may not be quite off the hook as yet.

The Senate caucus yesterday yielded an agreement to the effect that while Santiago retains jurisdiction over the WB probe by her panel on economic afffairs, she has been reduced to merely covering the economic aspect while other Senate panels, such as the blue ribbon committee, may take on the “criminal” aspect of the bribery and bid-rigging controversy.

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First Gentleman’s camp ready to ‘confront’ World Bank exec

MANILA, Philippines - The camp of First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo welcomed Tuesday the prospect of confronting World Bank officials over alleged bribery and collusion that marred WB-backed projects.
Mr. Arroyo’s lawyer Ruy Rondain said the First Gentleman might even show up if he is invited to a possible Senate hearing attended by WB country director Bert Hofman.

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