The Road to Pre-Pandemic Levels
The return to normalcy is beginning to take shape in the United States, the United Kingdom and some parts of the European Union.
Opened dine-in restaurants, resumption of cruise travel and people spending their time in their favorite bars are becoming frequent—the sights that we normally saw before the pandemic. The speedy vaccine rollout in these developed nations clearly allowed them to gradually re-open their economies.
Tourism, one of the hardest-hit sectors in the world, may also re-emerge soon in the Western world after the pandemic virtually shut down local and foreign travel. The European Parliament and EU member nations, for instance, reached an agreement that will lead to a Covid-19 certificate to help open up travel in the continent for the busy summer season.
In New York, big companies are calling their employees back to the business district. The financial district is preparing for the physical return of workers after 14 months of working from home.
The Philippines may be months away from getting close to what the Western world is experiencing now. We will likely go back to the pre-pandemic levels by next year yet as our economic managers have envisioned, based on the gross domestic product targets they have laid down.
This gives us hope—the light at the end of the tunnel is getting brighter. But let me quickly point out that every Filipino has a role to play in the path to economic normalcy. Returning to the pre-pandemic economic performance will require the cooperation of everyone—in terms of complying with the minimum health protocols and protecting our friends and families from the threat of the virus.
This does not mean we should just stay at home. We must observe all the health protocols while we participate in economic activities as part of the labor force, and as we return home to our loved ones after work. It is not a choice between life and economy, which is absurd. It is about doing the best we can to live and provide for our family.
I agree with the Department of Finance’s observation that if the health crisis is not managed effectively, the government may be forced again to impose strict quarantine measures, which we know are unproductive.
I have repeatedly pointed out in this space the importance of health-related measures to address the pandemic, such as building more hospitals and quarantine facilities, hiring more healthcare personnel, and enforcing health protocols in workplaces so that we won’t resort to shutting down factories, offices and stores in case another virus surge overwhelms hospitals.
Ultimately, we must inoculate most of the Philippine population against Covid-19. The job would apparently take longer than we originally anticipated. Fortunately, over 4 million vaccine doses arrived this month and more are expected to be shipped to the country in June.
The Development Budget Coordination Committee, meanwhile, has adjusted a little lower the new growth targets for 2021 to a range of 6.0 percent to 7.0 percent from the previous estimate of 6.5 percent to 7.5 percent. It sees the GDP returning to pre-Covid-19 growth levels of 7.0 percent to 9.0 percent in 2022 and further to 6.0 percent to 7.0 percent in 2023 and 2024.
The targets are reassuring. These projections meant the next two years would not be as challenging as 2020, which went down on record as one of the worst years for the global economy.
Our economic managers prefer to manage the Covid-19 risks and push for the gradual and safe reopening of the economy. Addressing and managing the outbreak, instead of shutting down the economy through strict quarantine measures, will enable people to return to work and allow the government to address hunger and poverty while maintaining strict compliance to minimum public health standards.
The government deserves credit for taking bold steps to guide the nation through the crisis, after spending over P1 trillion to provide subsidy to the poor; safely bringing home infected overseas Filipino workers; building healthcare infrastructure, and enforcing health protocols nationwide.
I am confident that with the continuing vaccination and the cooperation of everyone, we can safely return to the pre-pandemic growth level next year. We can all live a normal life soon with patience and caution on our side.