We Should Stay Focused and Look Beyond the Horizon
A businessman or trader must remain focused on his long-term goal and ignore the temporary distractions that will eventually die down.
It is important to remain calm despite the latest pandemic wave. As the daily Covid-19 infections reached a new record high last week, we need to keep in mind that other countries, such as the United States and those in Europe, are also registering daily infections by the hundreds of thousands. Yet, these developed nations are keeping their composure and refraining from pressing the panic button.
The last thing we need in a crisis is to become jittery and resort to unnecessary tactics that may hurt the economy and the labor force. The record-high daily infections last week are a source of concern, of course, but they should not be a reason to lock down the entire economy again. We could be creating a more serious problem if we shut down the economy, as what we have learned last year.
There seems to be a silver lining in the latest wave of infections, which some experts believe is being driven by the Omicron variant. Most cases are moderate, meaning fewer patients require hospital or intensive care unit confinement. In fact, many of the positive cases are isolating themselves at home.
I have repeatedly stressed in this column the need to expand our health-care capacity to prepare for any outbreak. Some experts, though, believe that we may see the peak of daily cases later this month, which will be followed by a gradual decline in February or March. What happened in the September 2021 wave is something that we should study and take lessons from.
Many people may have lowered their guard during the holiday season in their excitement to go to the malls. The Christmas rush obviously made social distancing nearly impossible given the volume of people trooping to the malls, and the low infection rate in December.
But business establishments remained compliant with health protocols by conducting temperature checks and ensuring that customers wear masks.
Even in the face of record infections, we should take solace in the fact that hospitalizations and deaths are not rising as fast. Credit goes to the national government for undertaking an aggressive vaccination campaign and for moving to penalize the unvaccinated. Vaccines have saved countless lives and will continue to be our major protection against the lingering Covid-19 pandemic, along with health protocols and contact tracing strategy.
The economy showed a strong performance in the fourth quarter of 2021, even though the official gross domestic product figures remain to be released. One important indicator is the level of exports, which grew 15.2 percent in the first 11 months of 2021 to $68.4 billion from the same period last year. A higher export level means companies are producing at greater capacity to meet orders and demand from other countries.
Economists believe the GDP may have grown by more than 5 percent in 2021 and may expand faster at 6 percent or 7 percent in 2022, even with the latest virus surge. I agree with them and this is possible if we will remain calm and cautious at the same time.
The business sector relies on the prognosis of economists and the latest actions by the government. As most economists agree that 2022 will be a year of sustained recovery for the Philippines, the government should support it by keeping the economy open and functioning.
This way, we can attract more foreign direct investments that play an important role in boosting the growth of an economy. FDIs are additional funds that the economy absorbs, aside from services, exports and remittances. They create jobs and opportunities for the people.
Per government data, net inflows of foreign direct investments climbed 48 percent in the first 10 months of 2021 to $8.1 billion from $5.5 billion in the same period in 2020. Many companies are expanding their operations in the Philippines, while major business process outsourcing providers continue to hire thousands of people.
FDIs create a ripple effect on other production sectors and subsequently support household spending. More people in the labor force means more consumers have purchasing powers that keep local communities and markets vibrant.
We should continue to attract foreign direct investments into our country by ensuring that the economy and the supply chain networks are functioning well to accommodate their entry.
We have learned ample lessons in the past two years that can guide us through 2022, no matter how challenging the first few weeks of the New Year are. We now know that a blanket lockdown is not the answer to containing the sporadic virus outbreaks. Granular or targeted restrictions would be more effective in restraining the spread of infections.
As more variants of Covid-19 may emerge in the future, we should not lose sight of our long-term economic goal. We should take control of the situation to generate more jobs, cut down poverty and enable the Philippines to graduate to an upper-middle-income economy this year or next year.