The safe restart

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The Department of Finance sees the country’s financial position as still “good” despite the onslaught of the coronavirus pandemic but it believes strict quarantine restrictions are holding back the economy.

Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said the government has enough funds to plug the country’s budget deficit, citing the Bureaus of Internal Revenue and Customs as doing a “good job”. Although revenue collection was lower by 12 percent compared to last year because of less business activity, they were able to collect P1.821 trillion in the first nine months, higher than the government’s estimate of P1.682 trillion, he said.

“We are in a good financial position and we can finance the deficit that we have, so we have not cut the budget. We also don’t cut the budget because if you cut the budget, you will make the situation worse,” Dominguez said. He added that people would lose their jobs and government would not be able to implement projects if the national budget is reduced.

“We have a good economy. What is happening is that… this very strict quarantine is holding it back. We have to really open the economy more,” Dominguez said.

The government imposed lockdowns in entire regions during the early months of the pandemic to prevent the spread of the virus, forcing many businesses to close, displacing thousands of workers. Six months into the pandemic, the administration is now easing quarantine restrictions to allow the gradual reopening of businesses and to revive the pandemic-battered economy.

The World Health Organization sees the Philippines as “proactive” in implementing non-pharmaceutical interventions against COVID-19, but much still has to be done to combat the virus. WHO representative to the Philippines Rabindra Abeyasinghe underscored “there’s still room for improvement on the harmonized, speedy contact tracing and management of close contacts and early isolation of positive individuals,” cautioning that delays in doing these things “have resulted in more secondary cases happening and more secondary transmission occurring.”

WHO and our some people in government know what need to be done to safely reopen the economy but based on our infection trajectory, we are still far from flattening the curve but already in desperate need of nursing our economy and everyone dependent on it back to life.

Considering how critical a safe restart is becoming as time goes by, does our government have a plan to reopen the economy or are we content with waiting for a vaccine?*


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October 2020