An enriching discussion titled “COVID-19 and the Economy” on the intersection of human and economic health took place on June 16, 2020, as former National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Secretary and UP School of Economics Emeritus Professor Ernesto M. Pernia was the guest and resource speaker at the UP Alumni Association’s (UPAA) Kapihan ng Bayan sa UP program. [Watch the replay here]
The afternoon discussion, held over the online communications platform, Zoom, explored the Philippine government’s priorities in managing the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as policies that promised to balance health preservation and the resuscitation of the economy. True to his promise to “advance propositions to provoke discourse”, Pernia identified key policy suggestions that he said would align with the short- and long-term goals of the country.
Pernia’s talk centered on recommendations from the Anticipatory and Forward Planning (AFP) Technical Working Group of the COVID-19 Inter-Agency Taskforce, chaired by NEDA. He said that such measures were important to renew the people’s trust in both the government and the private sector. Pernia said that while health should always come first, the economy should not be allowed to lag far behind.
The first objective of the AFP Technical Working Group of the COVID-19 Inter-Agency Taskforce, according to Pernia, is to restore the people’s confidence in the health sector, which ideally should culminate in solutions that enhance the sector further to deal with future threats. He was critical of the national health system’s response over the nearly three-month struggle against COVID-19, citing limitations that persist to the present in comprehensive “testing, tracing, and treating” (T3) measures.
Pernia said that these limitations were, together with the country’s stringent lockdown measures, some of the factors that led to disturbing turns in key economic indicators, such as unemployment, manufacturing, and trade. The second objective, therefore, is to rebuild consumer and business confidence via a robust T3 program, as 87% of the public expressed “fear, worry, and anxiety” over the current situation.
He said that reviving consumer confidence was of paramount importance, as consumption spending amounted to 70% of GDP. Weak consumer spending would keep the economy “in the doldrums”, as businesses and employment would fail to recover.
Lastly, Pernia recommended policies and programs to help adapt to a new economic and social normal. He cited the importance of two bills to future progress on these fronts: the Philippine Economic Stimulus Act (PESA/ARISE, costing P1.3 trillion over 3 years); and, the Philippine Program for Recovery with Equity and Solidarity (PH PROGRESO, estimated at P846 billion).
The Kapihan ng Bayan sa UP is a public service project of the UPAA that aims to serve as a forum for intelligent and constructive discussion of issues relevant to national development. Find out more by visiting: facebook.com/UPAA.Secretariat.