The Opposition has been nitpicking about the GDP turning positive the other day as announced by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA). Even Sharon Cuneta weighed in. Now it’s the Professor Emeritus of the UP Economics Department who now puts in her two cents on the back of what is, by now, an all-too-familiar script — that the lowest negative number registered as a consequence of the lockdown last March – May 2020 provided the “baseline effect” on which there was nowhere to go but up. This is what Winnie Monsod, like her other schoolgirl “economist” pals have been doing the past few days, carps about in her Inquirer piece “11.8 percent GDP growth—what it means”.
The actual Q1 number was higher than Q2, but it wasn’t enough to pull the economy out of the recession. But the difference between Q1 and Q2 was on a quarterly average. There is no government in the world right now that is able to respond to the crisis in a correct manner as far as the pandemic is concerned. China is leading the pack but is also dealing with a Delta-induced surge which is largely contained. Still, this has an economic impact. The US is experiencing inflationary pressure already as a result of additional social amelioration measures and the policy of the Democrats to tax and spend. At this point, it’s more spending. It becomes a question now of how long it can afford to keep interest rates low because inflation can only be reigned in by higher rates. The EUs economic powerhouse, Germany is in the same boat. The situation is complicated by Chancellor Angela Merkel stepping down.
Go out today and you will notice that the present enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) is not as strict as the first one. Why? We can’t afford it. The Delta variant has rendered vaccines inutile save for preventing a severe case of Covid. Herd immunity is out the window because Delta infects both the vaccinated and unvaccinated. Considering these, a positive GDP is something to cheer about. Instead, people like Monsod choose to see the half-empty glass…
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Does that 11.8 percent growth rate, together with the first-quarter growth rate, mean that our GDP is now at least equal to the pre-pandemic numbers? Alas, no. And Mapa gave the figures as well as referred everyone to the published report in the website. The GDP for the first half of 2021 was P8.9 trillion, compared to P9.4 trillion for the same period in 2019. What was our GDP for the first half of 2018? That would be P8.9 trillion. Which essentially means that Filipinos, so far, have lost three years of GDP. Three years, and our GDP is the same as it was in 2018.
A responsible opposition would’ve been cooperating with the government in this time of great crisis. This is not the case with the traditional Opposition as it is. America is fractiously divided because of politics. There are battles on several fronts including vaccination. The Philippines’ traditional Opposition has been following this playbook. They take every opportunity to pounce and apply no bigger perspective when doing so. There wouldn’t have been vaccine hesitancy if they didn’t badmouth Sinovac. As it is now, Sinovac has a higher protection rate than Pfizer when it comes to the Delta variant.
The economic managers are doing all that can be done to get the economy on the path to recovery. But there is the equally sensitive issue of public health. We are in the middle of a Delta-induced surge which our healthcare system given its current capacity is incapable of handling. Only 10% of the population has been vaccinated due to supply shortages. No one can afford to be an agent of divisiveness at this point but the Opposition is content with playing with the lives of Filipinos. It has been ayuda, ayuda, ayuda and not much else beyond pandering to that easy space of patay-gutom mentality.
The government continues to do its best to help the Filipinos in most need of social amelioration. It’s doing its best to bring down food inflation. As I keep on saying, Monday morning quarterbacking is easy. It’s different when you’re in the hot seat. At this point, it’s the duty of each and every Filipino to get vaccinated and observe minimum health protocols. We should also adopt a pandemic-is-endemic mindset. The pandemic will not end anytime soon. The sooner we adjust to the new normal the sooner we can all move forward in the present towards the future.
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