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Economic Booster

The improved vaccination rollout has certainly revived business activities in the Philippines and translated into the slower transmission of the Covid-19 in recent weeks. If this momentum is sustained toward the three-day national vaccination drive from November 29 to December 1, and the Department of Health starts providing booster shots to health workers and seniors, we are in for a more festive celebration of the Christmas season.


Booster shots will give an added lift to the economy during this period, as they will contribute to higher business and consumer confidence. It is reassuring to know that the government has enough vaccine doses for the massive vaccination program, with nearly 60 million doses in its warehouses.


We are doing well in the vaccination rollout that explains the consistent decline in our Covid-19 cases. Over 71 million doses have been administered in the country since the start of the year, with over 32 million Filipinos receiving two doses for full protection. 


I am confident the government will achieve its target of inoculating at least half of the target population by the end of November and ramp up the program to administer 1.5 million doses daily to attain population protection by the end of 2021.   


The vaccination program has already borne fruits in the form of slower transmission of the virus. This, in turn, allowed the healthcare sector to handle the situation and encouraged the government to ease lockdown measures that dragged the economy in the past quarters.


The positive health data will be a boon to economic recovery. Daily new cases on November 16 fell below the 1,000 mark for the first time in months, with the Department of Health reporting 849 new infections. The next day, new cases slightly increased to 1,190, but the higher number of recoveries brought down the total number of active cases nationwide to 23,846. We should aim to reduce the number of active cases to less than 10,000 next month so that we can better manage the situation.


The increasing vaccination rate is good news to the tourism sector that suffered the brunt of the pandemic. With more people getting vaccinated, tourism is beginning to show recovery. Several domestic destinations already lifted the swab test requirement for fully vaccinated air passengers.   


I hope more destinations will follow suit. Tourism directly creates jobs and livelihood opportunities in the destination sites.


The rising vaccination rate, meanwhile, is allowing us to reopen some of our schools to ensure the productivity and mental health of our labor force in the future. This reopening will further provide stimulus to the economy and expand the consumer base.


The economy needs more support from the government in order to recover from the impact of the health crisis and regain its pre-pandemic growth levels. I am in sync with the moves of business groups such as the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry to push for the further reopening of the economy and the creation of more jobs.


I believe we can further relax the restrictions as long as establishments observe health protocols, like requiring customers to wear face masks, conducting regular temperature checks, and discouraging overcrowding in enclosed areas. We should take lessons from other countries that relaxed the face mask mandate, only to pay the price in terms of a new infection surge and the return to strict quarantine measures.

If the population continues wearing face masks despite being fully vaccinated, we can significantly reduce the risks of infection and allow more economic activities to function. In Metro Manila, we can shift to the looser Alert Level 1, which means businesses can operate at full-site capacity, subject to minimum public health standards. The 90-percent vaccination rate in the National Capital Region, which is higher than in most countries, justifies the lifting of economic restrictions that hurt the poor more.


A strong consumer spending in the fourth quarter will enable the economy to regain some of the losses in the past quarters and grow within the target range of 4 percent to 5 percent in 2021, after contracting 9.6 percent in 2020. 


A more buoyant fourth quarter will certainly give us the momentum to grow faster than expected and give more joy to the Yuletide season.  



Business Mirror/Author/MannyVillar