The Philippines is expected to have a “slow start” in its recovery this year due to the existing restrictions but growth will pick up at full speed as the vaccination program against the new coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is implemented.
Karl Kendrick Chua, National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) acting secretary, said during the virtual Palace briefing yesterday the National Capital Region (NCR) may be in a better position to ease quarantine restrictions come March.
Chua said the government is keeping its growth target for 2021, of 6.5 to 7.5 percent.
“We have not seen any reason to change the projections. We already know when we proposed the projection that we will have a slow start. But by the second quarter, especially because of the vaccine and the reopening of the economy, and when our recovery program kicks in fully, then we will make a strong comeback,” Chua said.
“We will really have a slow start, and then we will by the middle of the year have a full speed ahead to achieve the 6.5 to 7.5 percent growth target,” he added.
Chua said the COVID-19 vaccination program, opening the economy as safely as possible, and the recovery programs of the government, all done together, will have the best impact for the economy and the people this year.
“(The arrival and the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine) will improve our confidence in the health care system because our priority includes the frontliners, so that means people will not be as afraid to go out because they know that the health care system will be there to protect them, to care for them when needed,” Chua said.
Chua said that for as long as the risk is managed, the government does not see a significant change in the economic growth trajectory.
“Ninety-five percent of the time, everyone’s safety is driven by personal behavior: wearing a mask, and face shield, washing hands, distancing and avoiding crowds. So if you do all these, it will really open the economy, but if people violate it and have parties or so on without those precautions then our progress will just be wasted. The scarring is there and we have to minimize it,” Chua said.
He added: “We will go through another month of general community quarantine (GCQ), but I’m confident that with the arrival of the vaccine, and as the data shows that we can better manage the economy by reopening further and safely… after this month we should be in a better position to relax further. We believe that with the data that we’re seeing and if everyone cooperates…we can further relax after this month,” Chua said.
The NEDA chief said that in the NCR and adjacent regions, every day of GCQ is equivalent to P700 million in wages, salaries, and other income lost.
“We hope that by March, we can make a turnaround and we’ll be able to recover, hopefully by second to fourth quarter.” Chua said, without elaborating.
A modified general community quarantine will open more sectors and expand the capacities of businesses.