In the latest Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey held last July, 40 percent of Filipinos surveyed said they expect the national economy to worsen in the next 12 months, against 30 percent who said it will improve and 24 percent who think it will stay the same.
This high level of pessimism came at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in July, four months after Metro Manila and the rest of Luzon were locked down under the strictest Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ), when people were told to stay home, businesses and offices were shut down, and incomes –both personal and national – plunged.
It was the same situation in the rest of the world – with the pandemic reaching its worst in the United States, along with Brazil in South America, Italy, Spain, and United Kingdom in Europe, Iran in the Middle East, and India in Asia. In Southeast Asia, the Philippines and Indonesia led in the number of infections and deaths. With no end in sight to the surging pandemic, the pessimism shown in the SWS survey was only to be expected.
Governor Benjamin Diokno of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas noted that the survey was held in July, after the lockdowns in March, April, and May when, indeed, pessimism enveloped the entire country. In the third quarter—July-August-September, he said, the government started to reopen the economy.
He recalled that the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) – which measures the nation’s local production—fell by 9 percent in the first half of the year; it was a devastating 16.5 percent drop in the second quarter. No wonder, the survey of July showed a huge percentage of Filipinos believing the national economy was bound to worsen in the coming months.
But, Governor Diokno said last weekend, “I expect that the economy will be more open in the fourth quarter…. The virus infection has started to flatten and the government has shifted from general lockdown to localized lockdowns. I truly believe the worst is behind us . We are now heading towards the path of recovery from the crisis.”
The national economy entered a recession for the first time in 30 years after the lockdowns in the first two quarters of the year. The July survey thus found so many Filipinos – 40 percent – believing it will be even worse next year.
But the situation has improved considerably since then, Governor Diokno pointed out. The lockdowns are easing, the economy is reopening, people are beginning to move about, although they continue to be guarded against the virus. We should see this rising optimism in the next SWS survey.