The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) said Thursday, May 19, that it is issuing a policy rate hike of 25 basis points (bps) Friday, May 20, to help temper the buildup of inflation expectations and in response to the strong rebound in the first quarter growth.The new BSP policy rate is 2.25 percent, effective on May 20. The last time the BSP’s Monetary Board raised the benchmark rate was Nov. 15, 2018, also by 25 bps. In 2018, the Monetary Board increased the policy rates by a cumulative 175 bps. Meantime in 2020, the first year of the global pandemic, the BSP had a series of policy rate cuts, totaling 200 bps, and it also reduced the reserve requirement ratio by 200 bps for big banks and 100 bps for small banks.The BSP’s key rate or the overnight reverse repurchase facility — frozen at two percent since November 2020 — was adjusted higher to address the elevated risks to the inflation outlook which are now skewed rowards the upside for the both 2022 and 2023.The Monetary Board also decided to raise the interest rate on the BSP’s overnight deposit and lending facilities by 25 bps to 1.75 percent and 2.75 percent, respectively.BSP officials led by Governor Benjamin E. Diokno also announced Thursday a higher inflation forecast for 2022 of 4.6 percent from its earlier March 24 estimate of 4.3 percent, and 3.9 percent for 2023, also up from the previous forecast of 3.6 percent. Both projections exceed the BSP inflation target of two percent to four percent for the next two years.Diokno said the BSP has clearer reasons to roll back its pandemic-induced interventions which includes holding off any rate adjustments for the last 18 months, after the government released a better-than-expected 8.3 percent GDP growth in the first quarter.The BSP chief expressed his confidence that the economy will achieve its seven percent to nine percent growth target for 2022, and expects a higher second quarter GDP numbers.However when asked if the 25 bps rate hike will have any impact on growth, Diokno said the impact will be “very little” which likely implies that the BSP will not stop at a 25 bps rate adjustment for this year. Market analysts expect the Monetary Board to hike rates by at least 50 bps to 75 bps in the next months, following other central banks’ move and with the faster-than-expected growth.Diokno said the strong rebound gives them scope to start its exit strategy from monetary accommodation, beginning with the policy rate hike, the return to normal operations, enhancements to the interest rate corridor system and the unwinding of liquidity provisions and other regulatory relief measures.“Moreover, given ample liquidity, a gradual recovery in credit activity, and stable financial market conditions, the Monetary Board has decided to reconfigure the BSP’s government securities (GS) purchasing window from a crisis intervention measure into a regular liquidity facility under our interest rate corridor framework. As part of the BSP’s standard monetary operations toolkit for injecting liquidity into the financial market, the recalibrated GS purchasing window will enhance the BSP’s ability to manage domestic liquidity conditions and ensure the sustainability of its balance sheet,” said Diokno.Meantime, in raising the interest rate, the Monetary Board took into main consideration the rising risks to the inflation outlook for the next two years.“The balance of risks to the inflation outlook now leans toward the upside for both 2022 and 2023, with upside pressures emanating from the potential impact of higher oil prices, including on transport fares, as well as the continued shortage in domestic pork and fish supply,” said Diokno.The downside risks are still primarily the potential impact of a weaker-than-expected global economic recovery, threats of Covid-19 resurgence, as well as the still ongoing Russia-Ukraine war and tightening of global financial conditions.In addition, unlike in February and March, the central bank now detects emerging second-round effects from the higher-than-expected wage hikes in the National Capital Region and Western Visayas. Inflation expectations have likewise risen, highlighting the risk posed by sustained pressures on future wage and price outcomes, said Diokno.“Given these considerations, the Monetary Board believes that a timely increase in the BSP’s policy interest rate will help arrest further second-round effects and temper the buildup in inflation expectations,” said Diokno.He added that on balance, the “persistent inflationary pressures point to the need for prompt monetary action to anchor inflation expectations.”“As the economic recovery continues to gain traction, the BSP will proceed with its plans for the continued gradual withdrawal of its extraordinary liquidity interventions and the start of the normalization of its monetary policy settings,” said the BSP chief.While the BSP is prepared and ready to deal with all risks to inflation and growth outlook, Diokno reiterated that “any adjustments in the monetary policy stance will be done in a timely manner so as not to disrupt the growth momentum while preventing price pressures from becoming entrenched.”He also said inflation pressures in recent months have been linked mainly to supply side factors which are still best addressed by targeted non-monetary interventions by the National Government.