NEDA: Economic environment ‘very fluid’ due to Delta

MANILA, Philippines – The economy is in a “very fluid” situation due to the emergence of more contagious variants of COVID-19, the National Economic and Development Authority said yesterday, although the chief executive NEDA, Karl Chua, remained optimistic about growth targets. reached this year if the most stringent quarantine measure can be avoided.

“What we are seeing right now is that we are moving forward and sometimes backward due to the nature of this virus,” Chua said during the Senate Finance Committee hearing, recalling how the The economy was in rebound mode at the start of the year when restrictions were relaxed for business to thrive.

An increase in COVID-19 cases in March, however, prompted the government to step back and reimpose lockdown measures until April, he said.

The gradual reopening of the economy proved short-lived with the entry of the more transferable Delta variant and the re-imposition of Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) in Metro Manila and neighboring economic centers.

“We’re in this mode of two steps forward and then another step back because of this very fluid environment,” Chua explained. “The original reset, rebound and recovery plan was a sequential event, but the current reality is that it is no longer sequential. We have the Delta and other risks and we have to be prepared.

The fluid economic environment has also forced the government to revise downward its gross domestic product (GDP) target for 2021 to four to five percent, from six to seven percent previously.

With only four months remaining in 2021, Chua has maintained that meeting growth targets for the year remains achievable if the economy is no longer constrained.

“As long as we don’t come back to ECQ, I think we can [hit] our estimated growth rate, ”Chua said.

“As part of our programming, this modified ECQ [that we are in] is expected to end next week and we will gradually move to the granular locking system so everyone can work and recover, ”he said.

Based on NEDA estimates, the impact of the MECQ is 73.68 billion pesos per week, compared to 144.26 billion pesos when the ECQ was imposed.

The current MECQ places 54% of the economy under this status, Chua said. With this status, up to 123,000 poor are added while 310,000 workers are affected, he added.

Opening up the economy by further lowering quarantine measures will reduce economic losses to 21 billion pesos under GCQ with increased restrictions, 15 billion pesos under GCQ with restrictions and 13 billion pesos under GCQ.

This could drop to 8 billion pesos if the MGCQ is imposed in Metro Manila and neighboring economic centers.

The number of poor people will also decrease as restrictions are relaxed to 22,000 under GCQ and 14,000 under MGCQ.

Likewise, the number of unemployed will drop to 34,000.

Chua further stressed that the main role of government is not to create jobs but to enable job creation.

He said job creation can be achieved if the government comes up with policies that will avoid severe bottlenecks when the majority can work, with the support of infrastructure programs that will enable the economy.

Privileges for the vaccinated

At the same hearing, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III backed proposals to impose lesser restrictions on fully vaccinated people because “the blockages don’t really work for the whole community.”

Senator Cynthia Villar told Dominguez that he could influence the IATF to adopt such a policy by discussing the plight of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) that have gone bankrupt due to strict quarantines.

“The problem is, the vaccinated are not allowed to go out and enjoy life, so to speak. So you need to press the IATF to grant the vaccinated privileges so that those who are not are convinced to get vaccinated, and we will achieve our (vaccination) goals and open the economy for the good of MSMEs ”, Villar said.

Senator Sonny Angara, who chairs the committee, told the hearing he had received a position paper from restaurant groups asking the government to allow dinners for fully vaccinated people.

Dominguez told senators he fully agreed, “however, sometimes in the IATF we are a lonely voice trying to rationalize the – trying to convince the people.” He later clarified: “I think we are a trio or a quartet of solitary voices (at IATF).

“You know the idea of ​​blockages doesn’t really work for the whole community. And I agree that vaccinated people have more mobility than others, ”said Dominguez.

He said he would follow Villar’s corporate practice and ask like-minded IATF colleagues to suggest opening up the economy a bit more, but demand that companies, especially large ones companies, provide weekly testing and tracing “and move towards a rational approach to managing the containment of the virus.”

“I told the companies ‘vaccinate, vaccinate and keep vaccinating’ because that’s the only solution we can see at the moment,” he said.

Confirmation test

The Department of Health (DOH) has reminded the public that the reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test is not necessary to confirm positive antigen test results for COVID-19.

“Based on our guidelines, a person who tests positive for the antigen is already confirmed positive. No need to repeat the RT-PCR, ”said Under Secretary of Health Maria Rosario Vergeire.

“To err on the side of caution, we will not need to debate more negative results from the RT-PCR test but positive from the antigen test,” she added.

Vergeire stressed that those who tested positive for COVID-19 in the antigen test should be isolated immediately. – Sheila Crisostomo, Paolo Romero, Cecille Suerte Felipe

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