Unburden the micro business
OFF TANGENT - Aven Piramide (The Freeman) - August 20, 2020 - 12:00am

I do not have to be an economist to write in this column that the Philippine economy is in shambles. Fiscal figures show that we are experiencing the worst recession in three decades with the gross domestic product reportedly tumbling to 16.5% in the second quarter this year. The indicators are frightening. There is, for instance, a national survey that says about 45 percent of our entire work force is without jobs. These facts are known to everyone. COVID-19, a virus that originated in China, is responsible for this.

Quarantines of different characterizations have been variously imposed in our country. The accompanying lockdowns led to the cessation of business and the termination of employees. However, we view the situation, the break of productivity and consumption has so ebbed in the last five months that our fiscal managers are pushing to open the economy by lessening the restrictions of man’s movement. They assert that we cannot anymore afford lockdowns.

In the light of this need to ignite the engines of our economy, our leaders are designing a plethora of regulations supposedly aimed at balancing the concerns of business and protection against a continued COVID-19 infection. It appears to me though that the initial rules for us to go back to our business endeavors are crafted by people with less understanding of the plight of the small-scale business. This is how we look at the early flux of apparent protocols as these supposed guidelines lay additional burdens upon the weakened shoulders of employers.

Private employers are obligated to provide workers with masks, face shields, sanitizers, alcohol, soap, towels and even transportation units, among those that I recall. These are understandably necessary in our direction to stop the spread of the Corona virus. Perhaps, large and multimillion-peso corporations can take this monetary blow. They can roll with these additional expenses and maybe their majority shareholders can accept a diminution of their margin of profits and just postpone buying new cars, or move to later dates their tour on board cruise ships. These are examples of luxuries they can “sacrifice” at the moment as they spend on the new protocols.

The situation of micro and small-scale business is entirely different. According to socio-economic studies, this group composes about 90 percent of our economy. Let us use a small “carenderia” as an example. It usually employs two cooks, three servers, a janitor, a dishwasher, a cashier, a purchaser, a utility boy and a presumptive manager. To approximate the new standards, these employees are required to use at least two masks and two towels each day, two bars of soap and two cannisters of disinfectant, alcohol and sanitizers every week, two face shields a month but require employers to provide. I tried computing the cost of these new expenditures on the basis of government suggested retail prices (SRP) and believe me, the figures I came up with are amounts that micro business and small-time entrepreneurs can no longer pay. They would rather terminate the services of their otherwise loyal and productive personnel and look for a business without such attendant newly imposed extra expenses.

I thought government wants the economy recover? Why make it impossible for small business to start again? I hope government regulatory agencies reconsider the imposition of these huge new burdensome regulations upon them. Better still, they come up with innovative ways to assist concerned business people rise from the COVID-19 generated financial disaster.

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