The Philippine Statistics Authority reported that inflation, as measured by the consumer price index, shot up to 4.2 percent year-on-year, rising by their fastest level in two years in January.
Inflation overshot government expectations as the surge in food costs remained unabated, blowing past the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas forecast range of 3.3-4.1 percent for the month and the 2-4 percent target for the year.
The latest data punctuated growing concerns over a slow but sustained quickening of inflation from October when succeeding typhoons hammered farmlands, destroying crops and tightening supply. Additionally, the African swine fever outbreak, which government has failed to resolve since 2019, has exacerbated the problem after a pork supply shortage that manifested during the holiday season trickled down to this year, prompting kneejerk price ceilings that pundits doubt will be effective in controlling prices.
On average, meat prices rose 17 percent year-on-year in January from 10 percent in December. Vegetable costs rose by a massive 21.2 percent on average from December’s 19.7 percent. Even fruit prices rose, up 9 percent from 6.3 percent the previous month.
The resulting acceleration in price increases threatens a fragile economic rebound from the pandemic.
If food prices cannot be lowered by increasing productivity and supply instead of the questionable move of implementing price controls, inflation could steadily rise in the coming months, making economic recovery even more difficult for the country and its people who are now among the hardest hit by the Covid-19 pandemic due to government’s largely unsatisfactory pandemic response.
Does our country still have a retired general who can be appointed as the inflation czar before the problem becomes worse?*