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Business

Creating a strong starting point

INTROSPECTIVE - Tony F. Katigbak - The Philippine Star

After the previous week’s events, coupled with wondering what’s coming next, the Philippines continues to look forward and find ways to keep moving. That’s how it goes after all. The wheel stops for no man and keeps turning and turning, and we just have to do our best to hang on and keep going. We have done this these past two years, and we must continue to do so moving forward.

Previously, I had expressed some concern about large crowds gathering and protocols seemingly diminishing around the city. After all, even though things are improving. COVID-19 hasn’t completely disappeared yet, and it was paramount that we remain cautious to prevent further spikes. The economy cannot survive another round of lockdown and increased restrictions again. For the most part, though, the campaign season seems to have passed without major incident.

However, recently, the highly infectious Omicron variant mutation, BA.2.12.1 has been detected in Manila and Palawan. This is a stark reminder that while things are improving, we certainly aren’t out of the woods yet.

This Omicron variant was also recently detected in the United States where it experienced another surge. While the numbers increased significantly, they didn’t need to go back into lockdown. In fact, for the most part, the United States remains focused on getting back to life as they know it.

As for the Philippines, a new Omicron variant could be a potential setback if we aren’t careful. After all, despite increasing vaccination and booster rates, many parts of the country are not where they should be when it comes to fostering herd immunity. While this new strain doesn’t appear to be any deadlier than previous ones, it can still cause sickness and death – especially as vaccine immunity wanes and booster shot uptake remains low.

Another potential issue that could arise from a new Omicron threat is a negative economic impact. We are still struggling to get back on track after the past two years. Restrictions being lifted and election spending have helped in the first quarter, and there was some good news about economic improvements. The country’s gross domestic product grew slightly higher than expected when the country dodged the major pitfalls of the first Omicron surge. However, the uncertainty of the future, coupled with a new viral strain, could cause another slowdown if not appropriately managed. And that’s something we all want to avoid.

Many believe decreased government spending and many businesses being cautious in the wake of the elections, coupled with a new coronavirus threat, could cause an economic slowdown in the second quarter and maybe beyond, depending on the outcome of the next several months. The new administration and uncertainty of their economic policies and focus areas will also contribute to businesses being wary and investments potentially being put on hold until the future looks clearer.

Not to mention, we are still in the middle of significant inflation. With the ongoing conflict in the Ukraine and fuel prices still very high, the cost of goods and services continues to increase, and it doesn’t look like this will stop any time soon. The cost of essential food items like canned goods, rice, and more have increased significantly, and many Filipinos are struggling to make ends meet.

There is some hope of an improved future if we see a smooth transition of leadership to the new government and they begin their term strong on solid footing with solid economic plans in place. That will be the main concern for businesses and future spending in the country this year and beyond. A strong government plan and business support will be essential in the months ahead.

As it stands, we are on proverbial tenterhooks as we await the outcome of the next several weeks. There are some things we can’t control – the conflicts in other countries, the new administration’s policies – but there are some things we can control, and that’s continuing to proceed with caution and preventing another COVID-19 surge. After all, at this point, when the campaign period is over, we need to work together to give the new administration the best possible start so that we can all benefit in the long run.

So for now – once more – caution must remain. It can get frustrating seeing other countries going back to as close to normal as possible, and I know that many Filipinos are probably frustrated and impatient. Still, we have been doing good to keep our numbers low so far, and we have to keep it up if we want things to improve.

This is especially true in the light of a new COVID-19 variant and a potential surge if we let things get out of hand. Let’s continue to move forward and not go back by following COVID-19 safety protocols – both in our workplaces and communities. If you are unvaccinated – get vaccinated and if you are eligible, get your booster to ensure you remain protected. The fight against COVID-19 is not a sprint, it’s a marathon, and we all need to do our part.

We all have a role to play in the months ahead. We all have to commit together if we want to give ourselves the best possible running start.

COVID-19

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