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Inadequate?

An Asian Development Bank report that compared the responses of countries to the coronavirus pandemic found that the Philippines’ war chest against Covid-19 may not be enough to bankroll the huge financial support needed to recover from the recession as well as resume jobs and livelihood.

Compared to neighboring Asian countries like Malaysia, South Korea and Thailand, “the packages for the Philippines and Indonesia are substantially smaller as a percent of GDP and in per capita terms,” read the ADB economics working paper titled “An Analysis of the Worldwide Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic: What and How Much?”

Citing data compiled by the ADB’s Covid-19 policy database, as of June 15, the Philippines’ total package was back then equivalent to 5.5 percent of gross domestic product, or equivalent to $188 per person. Indonesia’s package was 5.8 percent of GDP and $299 per capita; Malaysia was at 20.4 percent of GDP and $2,296 per capita; South Korea at 12.3 percent of GDP and $3,730 per capita; and in Thailand, 16 percent of GDP or $1,211 per capita.

To be fair, the ADB’s latest updated Covid-19 policy database, as of November 30, showed the Philippine response package at a bigger $21.65 billion, up from $21.1 billion in July. The updated package is equivalent to 5.88 percent of GDP or $202.95 per Filipino.

Despite the small fiscal response, the Philippines was among the ADB’s member countries that enjoyed the biggest foreign assistance in the form of loans and grants.

Back in June, the country’s $3.6 billion in international assistance was only exceeded by India’s $4 billion.

The Philippines is not a rich country and that could explain the limited funds for its pandemic response but compared to other countries, the intention to spend, when spread out over the population, is glaring. Our country is willing to spend $202.95 per Filipino while Malaysians have been allocated 10 times more on pandemic response.

We can only hope that other countries will not recover 10 times faster than us, or Filipinos will be left even further behind when everyone else gets on the path to recovery.*

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