The country’s economic planners are maintaining the government’s 6.5- to 7.5-percent growth target this year, optimistic about economic recovery despite the reimposition of stricter quarantine measures in Metro Manila and other provinces amid surging coronavirus cases.
During the virtual “Sulong Pilipinas: pre-SONA of the Economic Development and Infrastructure Cluster” Monday, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick Chua said although the recent imposition of enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) and modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) may lower the growth estimate, the country has still “ample opportunity to catch-up”.
“We have a target of 6.5 to 7.5 percent this year and we are still early in the year I think to make changes. We have not yet seen the impact of the ECQ and our quarantine on the first quarter so I would wait for more data,” he said.
Chua said the country is enforcing an ECQ and MECQ, but it is different from last year.
“We allowed people to work, our public transport is functional. Construction is ongoing so there are some changes from how we experienced quarantine last year,” he added.
Chua said all the jobs lost from the ECQ last year have been recovered and even added 600,000 jobs.
“What we have seen so far is prior to the spike (in coronavirus disease 2019 cases), we have significant improvement. Our import is, as of February, is a slight positive and our export is a slight negative,” he added.
Chua, also National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) Director General, cited enablers of economic recovery along three pillars to be on track with this year’s growth target.
He said these are the safe reopening of the economy and the timely implementation of the recovery package and vaccine program.
“The first one is a more risk-managed approach to dealing with the virus. Instead of quarantine the entire area, we can have more localized quarantine that addresses the areas or sectors with the highest risk instead of affecting everyone,” he said.
Chua said the country’s goal is to accelerate the delivery of a package of recovery programs, including Bayanihan 2 which continues to be implementable until the middle of the year, the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises (CREATE) law on lowering of taxes and the granting of more performance-based and targeted incentives, and the implementation of Financial Institutions Strategic Transfer (FIST) which addresses liquidity problems of firms.
These also include the immediate passage of Government Financial Institutions Unified Initiatives for Distressed Enterprises for Economic Recovery (GUIDE) to address solvency problems of firms, the acceleration of “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure program, and the implementation of 2021 budget, he said.
“All of these, together with our recovery and emergency programs in 2020, amounts to some 15.4 percent of GDP in both fiscal, monetary and financial support,” he added.
Chua further said the government will continue to work hard to roll out the vaccines and ensure the gradual reopening of the economy.
“And finally is the acceleration of our vaccine deployment program which we very much hope supply will come soon so that we can continue to vaccinate the critical sectors of our society,” he said.
As of April 21, Chua said a total of 1.6 million vaccine doses have been administered across A1 to A3 priority groups.
“Prospects for 2021 are encouraging and will allow us to recover to pre-pandemic levels in 2022. This will prevent long-term scarring and productivity losses,” he said.The country’s GDP shrank a record 9.5 percent in 2020 as tough coronavirus restrictions caused a decline in economic activities.SOVEREIGNPH