International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde gestures as she answers questions during a news briefing at the presidential palace in Manila November 16, 2012. (MNS photo)

MANILA, Nov 16 (Mabuhay) — International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde on Friday commended the Philippine government for its efforts in growing the economy despite the global headwinds.

“I congratulated the Filipino authorities for their excellent economic stewardship during difficult times,” Lagarde said in a press conference in Malacanang on Friday.

Lagarde emphasized the Philippines is the only country that the IMF raised its growth forecast for this year.

“This year, 2012, at a very difficult time because of the financial crisis in other parts of the world, the Philippines is probably the only country we have increased the growth forecast as opposed to other places in the world where we actually decreased our forecast,” she said.

The IMF, in its October World Economic Outlook (WEO), hiked its 2012 growth projection for the Philippines to 4.8% from an earlier forecast of 4.2% in April. Next year’s growth forecast was also upgraded to 4.8% from 4.7%.

International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde (L) talks with Philippine Vice-President Jejomar Binay during a quick tour of the Coconut Palace in Manila November 16, 2012. (MNS photo)

But the first female head of the IMF had a more optimistic take on the Philippine economy, saying this may grow above 5%, possibly within the government’s aim of a 5-6% expansion this year.

“I know that the growth in 2012 will be way in excess of 5% and we’re certainly looking forward to 2013 to be in the range of 5% as well. This is due in no little parts to the excellent policy mix deployed both by the Secretary of Finance and the central bank of the Philippines,” Lagarde said.

Lagarde urged the government to continue its efforts toward an inclusive and sustainable growth.

“We share the government’s view that growth should benefit the broader section of population… Inclusive growth is more sustainable and it is really to the credit of this government to make sure that growth is as inclusive as possible and inequalities can be reduced,” Lagarde said.

The IMF chief also said she is looking forward to the IMF’s continued partnership with the Philippines, especially now that the Southeast Asian country is a net creditor in the multilateral institution.

“The IMF is very very pleased for the historical partnership that we have but particularly pleased that it has now taken the form of a creditor relationship,” Lagarde said.

“We will be doing everything we can to support with technical assistance the effort of the Philippine authorities to extend growth throughout the country in all its diversity and into the far end of the country where peace is returning,” she continued.

On Friday morning, Lagarde met with Vice President Jejomar Binay, Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, Budget Secretary Butch Abad and Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas deputy governor Diwa Gunigundo.

She is scheduled to meet with students and business leaders in the afternoon.

She arrived in the Philippines on Thursday, part of a week-long visit to Southeast Asian countries. (MNS)