Pandemic shaved P3 trillion from economy—NEDA

THE pandemic has prevented the Philippine economy from breaching the P20-trillion mark in terms of its nominal GDP, according to the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda).

     In an online forum on Monday, Neda Undersecretary for Policy and Planning Rosemarie G. Edillon said if it weren’t for the pandemic, the country’s GDP would have already reached P22 trillion.

Edillon said this meant that the pandemic’s cost to the economy is around P3 trillion to P4 trillion. As of 2021, the country’s GDP in nominal terms reached P19.4 trillion, 99.4 percent of the P19.5-trillion GDP in 2019.

“The thing to remember is that this GDP is more than a number. GDP is really a measure of all the production of all the businesses and this means there were lots of businesses that were not able to produce as expected,” Edillon explained. “This means you have businesses that actually lost during these past two years.”

Because of the losses they incurred, businesses may have laid off workers or reduced the salaries of their employees or both in the past two years, Edillon said.

This, the Neda official stressed, is the reason the government must accelerate the economy’s recovery. Nonetheless, Edillon said, the country is already on the mend and is able to better manage the pandemic.

According to Edillon, there is currently a need to boost confidence in the economy, noting that even if case loads are low in the National Capital Region, many businesses are still operating below 100 percent onsite.

“We are on the mend, we have successfully managed Covid-19 although we are still very cautious and we are prepared to take on any eventuality with respect to the Covid-19,” Edillon said. “We are really working towards building the resiliency of the country.”

Growth goal

The impact of the pandemic, she said, has prompted the government to aim to grow the economy by 7 to 9 percent this year and 6 to 7 percent in 2023 and 2024.

These targets will not only help the economy recover to its prepandemic form and sustain the growth but also attain the AmBisyon 2040 when Filipinos are able to have a matatag, maginhawa, panatag na buhay [stable, prosperous and peacefule life].

“The bottomline is actually the kind of life that we want,” Edillon said. “Filipino families live together. There’s work-life balance so there is time to spend with family, even for members who work on weekends. [They want to] enjoy time together in parks and recreational centers. And they live in a high trust society with a strong sense of community.”

Efforts to build confidence include ensuring that businesses and services continue by adopting risk-informed guidelines as well as harmonizing and streamlining travel protocols.

The government, she said, must also conduct a needs assessment to immediately formulate the catch-up plan as well as mobilize government resources. She added that there is also a need to undergo digital transformation to make the country more resilient to shocks.

This means the country needs to invest in digital infrastructure, improve digital literacy in the government, among businesses and citizens. This will contribute to the government’s efforts in addressing future threats.

The Neda, the Department of Health, and the University of the Philippines National Institutes for Health are working toward the creation of a Pandemic Response Playbook in order to guide efforts in the event of another pandemic.

Image credits: AP/Aaron Favila

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