More lockdowns painful to economy

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    Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said further easing of the economy is necessary for the country to bounce back from the effect of the new coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

    Speaking at the Metro Manila Business Conference – Sulong Pilipinas,” Dominguez said further lockdowns will be even more painful for the economy especially of Metro Manila.

    “NEDA (National Economic and Development Authority) estimates that for every one month of lockdown of Metro Manila areas, we lose around P1.5 trillion worth of sales, as only around 32 percent of the economy effectively opens,” he said.

    Dominguez, however, said the lockdown imposed in the beginning of the pandemic was “necessary to save lives and protect our communities,” enabling the government to “strengthen our prevention, testing and isolation as well as treatment capacities.”

    “The decisive move helped us to avert an estimated 1.3 to 3.5 million infections, according to university researchers,” he said.

    Dominguez said the government is doing its utmost “to prevent the need for further lockdown and keep the virus at bay, so people can start to move around more freely and more confidently as long as we all comply with the required health behaviors.”
    Dominguez said rebuilding the economy is a condition for ensuring public health.

    “We cannot fight a pandemic with a weak economy nor can we restore economic vigor without solving the public health crisis. The health of our people and the strength of our economy are mutually reinforcing the progress we have seen in our labor market, after the slight easing of mobility restrictions is very encouraging,” he said.

    “As we gradually reopened our economy our unemployment rate in July of this year, significantly dropped to 10 percent from the higher 17 percent in April. The continuous lower contraction in manufacturing production also signals rising economic activities,” he added.

    Dominguez said the value of production index for the month of July showed a slower annual decline of 14.8 percent from the high of 41.2 percent in April. The volume of production index meanwhile shrank at a slower rate by 11.9 percent, compared to a high of 38.8 percent in April.

    Dominguez said improvements in the employment numbers and other economic indicators will depend on how the country “continue to ease mobility restrictions by opening up additional modes of public transportation that are safe and adhere strictly to health standards.”

    “The public health effort will be a marathon there is no magic wand to win. ..we must be prepared for a long battle. It is important that we exercise fiscal prudence to ensure that we do not run short of resources in this long game. What we are facing is a test of fiscal stamina. How a country’s economy performs during COVID-19. And how quickly it can bounce back once the crisis is over, will depend on its economic resilience. This is why we have been consistent with our approach. We will do what is necessary but we will not be wasteful,” he added.

    Meanwhile, the Employers Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP) called on government to implement balanced quarantine policies so as not to drastically disrupt business and without sacrificing workers’ health.

    This was one of the resolutions passed by ECOP at the end of the 41st National Conference of Employers (NCE) last September 4.

    “The implementation of quarantine protocols to prevent and control the spread of the virus radically impeded business operations, as employers face tough challenges in balancing operational issues with health and safety of workers,” said Sergio Ortiz-Luis Jr. , ECOP president.

    Edgardo Lacson, ECOP chairman, for his part said businesses alone cannot effectively hurdle the challenges brought about by the pandemic.

    “Employers need the help and cooperation of the government, the labor groups, and other stakeholders to restart business operations to overcome the grave impact of COVID-19 and the ensuing harsh quarantine protocols,” Lacson said. (R. Castro)