Post-COVID19:The possibilities
FULL DISCLOSURE - Fidel Abalos (The Freeman) - April 6, 2020 - 12:00am

“We can’t please everyone”, our forefathers said so, then. Centuries gone and the same admonition remained true and real. Certainly, as generations come and go, it will forever stay.  For instance, recently, no matter how the government exerted efforts to ease the pain brought about by this pandemic, some quarters are just so busy criticizing every move they make. 

On the other hand, while public health officials are asking citizens to stay home and observe physical distancing to, hopefully, subdue the coronavirus outbreak, some left-leaning opportunists are agitating some folks to hold rallies instead. These are the sad realities that we are seeing today. 

Our future? It shall totally depend on the extent of its devastation and the time we need to contain this disease. If its devastation isn’t that spread and will be contained the soonest, the economic implication may not be that severe. Otherwise, expect that our recovery efforts will be an uphill climb.  

Considered as a black swan to many, we have to be reminded that this coronavirus is affecting all economies in the world. Sadly, while we are currently battling the virus per se, the aftermath could be more disastrous. Yes, as this will drag, we will soon realize that the greater concern will not just be our health but our livelihood as well. Why?

While the global economy shall surely take a hit and some businesses shall either slow down or fold up, unemployment will certainly rise. For wealthy economies, they can just devour their unemployment insurance funds. For poorer countries, they must also have to,probably, cope with social upheavals.   

In us, as early as last week, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) already said that “our economic growth will slow significantly this year before a strong rebound in 2021, with expansionary fiscal and monetary policies partly offsetting slower domestic demand and disruptions in tourism, trade, and manufacturing.”

In its annual flagship economic publication, Asian Development Outlook (ADO) 2020, “ADB projects the Philippines’ gross domestic product (GDP) to grow at 2.0% in 2020 following an “enhanced community quarantine” imposed by the government in March to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the country.” 

However, ADB expects “a strong recovery to 6.5% GDP growth in 2021, assuming that COVID-19 infections in the country are curbed by June this year.” 

Again, as emphasized, this scenario is only possible if the infections in the country shall be curbed by June this year. Why? This second quarter alone is already a foregone conclusion.  There will definitely be a contraction in the economy in this quarter. Hopefully, if it ends or restrained by June, then the economy is expected to bounce back starting the third quarter of this year and, at least, expand by 2% during the year as ADB figures it out.

How shall this be possible?  The ADB reported that it is achievable through “sustained public investment – especially in priority projects under the government’s “Build, Build, Build” (BBB) infrastructure development program - and a rebound in private consumption will drive economic growth in 2021.” It further said that “the economy will also benefit from the government’s large-scale fiscal spending to boost the delivery of relief measures to vulnerable sectors affected by the pandemic.”

However, while the ADB emphasized that the infra-related efforts, relief measures and private consumption may certainly reinvigorate the economy, the latter may yet remain questionable.

Remember, with these experiences, lessons are learned and the fear of the unknown obtains. Consequently, with the extent of the financial aftershock still unknown, loan defaults for businesses (not health-care and food related) will surely rise. 

Therefore, with non-essential businesses slowing down, do not expect much consumption from them. More so with pure wage-earners (who used to swipe their credit cards with relative ease) who will be rendered jobless, they will also be card-less by then. In fact, with so much uncertainties, even those with stable jobs will limit purchases and save more to prepare for another wave. Consequently, demands for products and services will be scarce. 

It is about time, therefore, that we have to do something different. Remember, just like health care related products, the demand for food is constant. So let’s focus on that. For those who will be rendered jobless in the highly urbanized areas and must have abandoned their farm lots in the provinces, why won’t you go back and till those lands?

The government, on the other hand, instead of constantly providing food, why won’t we provide them with enough support, probably, in the form of farm inputs. Then, enhance the capabilities of LGU agriculturists so they may be able to supervise these farmers closely and effectively.

This way, our future may not be that uncertain.

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