The Philippines is growing at a faster pace among the five biggest economies of the Association of Southeast Asian Nation or ASEAN-5, supported by robust government spending and increased business confidence, according to the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW).

“The Philippines looks to be doing exceptionally well as the government spends heavily on infrastructure and confidence about governance and business prospects abounds,” ICAEW noted in the  “South East Asia Economic Insight Report” released Wednesday.

Touting the Philippines as one the “brightest sparks in the ASEAN region,” ICAEW noted “booming household expenditure have also contributed to the glowing picture.”

ICAEW sees the Philippine economy expanding at 5.1 percent this year and accelerating to 5.4 percent next year.

This is above the 4.9 percent 2013 and 2014 growth projection for ASEAN-5 which groups Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand.

The projection for the Philippines is the second best in the five-nation bloc, behind Indonesia’s 5.7 percent projected growth in 2013 and 5.5 percent in 2014.

Thailand is seen growing at 4.8 percent in 2013, decelerating to 4.4 percent in 2014; while Malaysia’s growth is projected at 4.4 percent and 4.2 percent for this year and the next, respectively.

Island nation Singapore is seen trailing the bloc, growing  at 2.3 percent in 2013 and 3.6 percent in 2014.

ICAEW’s outlook for the Philippines, however, falls-short of the government’s growth goal of  6 to 7 percent in 2013 and 6.5 to 7.5 percent in 2014.

It is slower than the 6.6 percent expansion in 2012 and is below the 6.05 percent full-year 2013 median forecast of private sector economists polled by GMA News Online.

Sought for comment, Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) economist Emilio Neri, Jr. surmised that ICAEW’s “conservative projections” may be based on “historical growth data, which are lower than Indonesia.”

ICAEW economic advisor and Cebr’s head of Macroeconomics, Charles Davis, noted in a statement, “We expect growth in the Philippines to fall to about 4.5 percent in 2015 as capacity constraints lead to higher inflation and tighter monetary policy. However this remains a good figure, and the country looks set to shake off its former reputation as the ‘sick man of Asia’.”

“Fiscal consolidation, which we see as aggressive so far, will be an impetus for more aggressive spending,” BPI’s Neri said. This “will determine if the Philippines can sustain a 6 percent growth trajectory,” he added.

Benign inflation, which hit a 13th month low of 2.6 percent in April, allowed the central bank to maintain monetary policy at an expansionary stance. — VS, GMA News