“Economic experts” sprouted overnight after the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) released its economic data the other day. The PSA numbers showed that the Philippines moved out of recession territory with GDP growth turning positive for the first time since its tumultuous plunge last year on the back of the first lockdown which effectively shutdown the economy. The naysayers had a field day saying it was the result of the base effect; -18% growth had the number going nowhere but up. Mathematics is based on logic so nothing wrong with that.
I found it rich that even Sharon Cuneta weighed in on the matter. Yes. The Megastar. Wife of Sen. Kiko Pangilinan. Recently returned from the US. Underwent breast reduction surgery. That was the news about her prior to her making the economic statement. Of course, her breast reduction procedure had no economic effect. But it is really the bottom of desperation when the Opposition resorts to such a move. The truth is the only time the opposition will be content is when they are back in power. And when that happens, it will be their turn to make the most out what is a nominal achievement at best. But it’s still positive news.
What is really offensive is how the millennial “economic experts” of the Opposition continue to criticize the economic managers without offering any solution to their identified problems. I’m referring to the group of JC Punongbayan and “Budget Babe” Zy-za Nadine Suzara, who is the Executive Director for iLead, the Institute for Leadership, Empowerment and Democracy sponsored by the Ateneo de Manila. These two carp endlessly about how the economic managers are doing everything wrong but don’t offer alternative solutions to what they deem to be wrong to begin with. Last June, a piece Suzara jointly wrote with several iLead honchos (it takes several of them to screw a lightbulb on) published on, get this, the one and only Al Jazeera (where fellow Yellow “journalist” Barnaby “I was just reporting” Lo also works as its Philippine “correspondent”), was given the predictable title “In this pandemic, Duterte has his priorities all wrong”. But of course, right? That time, she — or rather they — try to spin some kind of dishonest cause-and-effect link between that thesis and the proliferation of “community pantries”…
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In the past couple of weeks, community pantries have mushroomed all over the Philippines. The poor, left with no other options, formed long lines in the summer heat, under threat of COVID-19, just to get what the government of President Rodrigo Duterte has so far failed to give: economic aid.
The sudden growth of community pantries mirrors not just the extent of the Philippines’ economic crisis but also the extent of the government’s neglect. Total output, as measured by gross domestic product (GDP), plunged by 9.5 percent in 2020, the Philippines’ worst economic slump since World War II. Gross per capita income plummeted to 2015 levels. Countless businesses, especially small ones, were forced to shut down and cut their workers’ wages. Joblessness skyrocketed, and more than three million Filipinos remained unemployed by March this year.
Judging by the shrill manner with which she tweets it is clear that Suzara harbors quite the chip on her shoulder that colours her “economic analysis”…
To be fair, even with the sketchy enthusiasm Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick Chua waxed over the recent PSA data, the Manila Times editor in today’s piece “Not much good news in GDP ‘growth’ result” highlighted the need for circumspection considering the “uninspired reception” accorded it by more credible economic analysts. However, he also cautions the hoi polloi of “economic analysis”…
We might criticize administration officials for discussing the Q2 GDP data in terms that are obviously not congruent with reality, but we would stop short of blaming them for the less than adequate results. Throughout the 20 months – and counting – of the coronavirus pandemic, it has posed unimaginable challenges to the entire world. The current surge is a glaring example; many countries, even those more advanced in rolling out vaccines and reducing case numbers, have suffered significant setbacks. There are no models or precedents for managing an economy under these volatile circumstances, and thus, no certainty that alternatives to what might be perceived as government missteps would actually have better results.
There is not a single country in the world today that’s not grappling with the Delta-induced surge. Rich countries thought they were free and clear of the virus until Delta variant came along. The concept of herd immunity is no more because Delta infects the fully-vaccinated as well. The vaccines only provide a measure of protection against developing a severe case of Covid leading to death. This is precisely why the latest lockdown was declared.
Scientists are at a loss because they are also amazed at how Covid mutates. The Delta variant exhibited a change in amino acid component of the spike protein which the virus uses to latch on to healthy cells and spread throughout the host. It is 65% more contagious and has 1,200 times more the viral load of the original virus. It also has a shorter incubation period of six days. Health officials are now looking at booster shots. This means vaccine procurement will have to be multiplied times three. The economic managers aren’t sleeping on the job.
A slew of economic measures have been passed by Congress. There is a cocktail of acronyms to this effect; CREATE, FIST, and GUIDE. There are also pending amendments to existing laws which will facilitate the entry of foreign direct investments. These laws are the Public Service Act, Retail Trade Liberalization Act and the Foreign Investment Act. The government and the private sector must speed up digitization if the economy is to adapt to the new normal. This should presuppose a “pandemic-is-endemic” outlook.
Covid is not going to go way anytime soon. We have to learn to live with it. Actually, we should have learned to live with it by now. For the so-called “economic experts,” including The Megastar, it would be best if you can criticize and provide solutions at the same time. It’s easy to do Monday morning quarterbacking but when you’re in the hot seat, I doubt very much if any one of them would know where to begin.
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