Gov’t must address health problem before nation can see better economic recovery — NEDA

The government must address the health problem arising from the coronavirus threat before the nation can see better economic recovery, National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) acting Secretary Karl Kendrick Chua said Friday.

National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) acting Secretary Karl Kendrick Chua

According to Chua, the country must learn to "dance" with coronavirus wherein the government will impose strong quarantine measures to manage the outbreak whenever there is a surge of cases.

"Kung dumadami po iyong infection (If the infections increase), we will have to quarantine and close down the economy as we are doing now under MECQ (modified enhanced community quarantine)," he said during a televised press briefing. 

"If we don’t do this, then as the cases rise, then I don’t think the economy and the productivity of the country will be any better. So that is where we are, so we are doing this rebalancing and we have to address the health problems squarely before we can see better recovery," he said.

The country fell into technical recession after the economy shrank by 16.5 percent in the second quarter of the year. The worse than expected economic downturn was recorded following the strict coronavirus lockdown that affected businesses and left millions jobless.

Chua said the government has readied its economic recovery program, that includes the passage of the proposed Bayanihan 2 law, implementation of the Build Build Build infrastructure program, and the proposed 2021 national budget.

He said if the next two weeks are used to enhance the country's healthcare system, then the earlier the country can further open the economy. 

At present, he said only 50 percent of the local economy has reopened due to the community quarantine restrictions implemented in various parts of the country.

"This is a health issue primarily so we have to address the bottom line issue which is on the health side. And that is why we agreed to have this two-week period so that we can address that. So that when we are able to do so, the economic recovery and confidence will come back better," he said.

Chua also recognized that the coronavirus will stay until a vaccine is found, adding this has been taken into consideration in the government's economic development plan.

"We are looking at the situation wherein we have to dance with the virus, we take two steps forward, one step backward when needed and when we prepared the revised macroeconomic framework, we have already incorporated that," he said.

"Kapag bumaba po iyong cases, we can gradually open. Kapag dumami po iyong case, we will have to also have some form of a closure (If the cases decrease, we can gradually open. If it the cases increase, we will have to also have some form of closure)," he  said.

The government has slowly relaxed the lockdown measures to revitalize the stalled economy but the cases of coronavirus infections soared while testing efforts escalated.

Metro Manila and four neighboring provinces have however reverted to modified enhanced community quarantine until August 18 following an appeal from the medical community for a timeout.