BUSINESS outlook in the Visayas, especially Region 7, improved in the second quarter of 2010, at the height of the election season, according to a survey by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP).

Central Visayas respondents expressed optimism about better business and economic performance from July to September.

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The Business Expectations Survey Report placed the overall confidence index at 47 percent in the second quarter, from 39.7 percent in January-March. The BSP conducts the survey quarterly.

“Respondents, especially in Region 7, anticipate the peso will appreciate and inflation and interest rates will rise in the second and third quarters, compared to the previous quarter,” said Teresita Deveza, acting deputy director of the Department of Economic Statistics.

The survey was conducted among 146 companies in Region 7, of which 79 percent responded.

Overall, the confidence index approached “pre-2008 crisis levels,” the BSP report said.

Respondents nationwide were bullish about a recovery in export earnings, moderate inflation, growth in overseas workers’ remittances, a stable peso and “anticipated higher consumer spending attendant to the May elections.”

The confidence index is based on the number of respondents answering a survey item in the affirmative, less the number of respondents who answer in the negative.

Deveza said the Visayas has the lowest average annual population growth among the three major island groups, with 19 million according to the latest National Statistics Office (NSO) data.

The region’s most significant contributions to the national economy are in agriculture, fisheries and forestry (AFF), followed by services.

At least 17.8 percent of AFF production in the Philippines comes from the Visayas.

However, its industry contribution to the economy is the smallest among the island groups.

In the mining sector, the Visayas contributed 18 percent of the overall mining and quarrying production in the country.

Deveza added that in the Visayas, unemployment rates in all regions increased in the first quarter of 2010, except in Western Visayas, which remained at six percent.

Region 7 posted an unemployment rate of 8.1 percent in January 2010, compared to 7.8 percent at the same time last year.

Underemployment stood at 18.1 percent, compared to 14 percent last year.

Underemployment rates in other Visayan regions rose above the national average of 19.7 percent, except in Central Visayas.

The highest was in Western Visayas, which posted an underemployment rate of 28.6 percent.