Key economic data reveals difficult times ahead for the Philippines - prompting credit agencies to lower their ratings and leading to a falling currency and weaker stock market. The Asian Development Bank has determined that the number of people living below the poverty line, set at US$2 a day, now accounts for 40 per cent of the Philippines' 84 million people. In some provinces the figure is more than 60 per cent. In its latest country strategy and progress report, the bank found the Philippines had one of the highest infant mortality rates in Southeast Asia and the second-highest number of total births among the region's 10 nations. In the bank's Asian Development Outlook 2005 report, released in April, it said the economic growth rate would slow to 5 per cent over the next three years, after a 15-year high of 6.1 per cent last year. Inflation would hover between 5.5 per cent and 6.5 per cent because of high oil prices, wage rises and increases in transport costs. Unemployment, averaging 11.8 per cent last year and one of the highest rates in Southeast Asia, would continue to rise despite government plans to create 1.5 million jobs over the next six years. The jobless rise was mainly because an extra one million people were entering the job market each year. The bank was especially worried about the country's ability to control its budget deficit, which stood at 3.8 per cent of gross domestic product last year, and high debt interest payments, which escalated from 19.5 per cent of the nation's public expenditure in 1998 to 29.5 per cent last year.