Effective health response system key to economic recovery — Angara

Published November 14, 2020, 10:22 AM

by Mario Casayuran

Senator Juan Edgardo M. Angara today said efforts to strengthen the country’s health response system should be pursued in order for the economy to rebound from its dismal growth in 2020.

Sen. Sonny Angara (Senate of the Philippines / FILE PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN)

Angara, chairman of the Senate finance committee, was referring to the economy which contracted by 11.5 percent in the third quarter of this year based on the latest data released by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA).

Household consumption remained down, contracting by 9.3 percent in the third quarter, with the biggest declines coming from recreation and culture, restaurants and hotels and transportation.

Angara argued that the contraction in consumption is caused in large part to a lack of confidence by consumers to go out and resume any type of activity because of the long period of restrictions imposed on movement by the government and the prevailing fear of contracting the COVID-19 virus.

“Health policies are intimately linked to economic results. There is really a lack of confidence because of the health situation. But we see that consumer confidence is slowly returning. It’s not back to pre-COVID levels and I don’t think it will ever go back to those levels, but there are signs that we are moving forward,” he said. 

Based on the same PSA report, household consumption contracted by 15.3 percent in the second quarter of the year. 

Angara noted how the number of daily cases of COVID-19 is going down, especially in the National Capital Region (NCR), which now represents no more than 40% of the total.

The OCTA Research Group has also noted that the ratio of people testing positive for COVID-19 in Metro Manila is trending in the right direction at six percent and is close to the World Health Organization’s recommended target of five percent to effectively curb the spread of the virus.

He explained that the NCR figures are significant considering that the bulk of economic activity is in this region.

“As long as we keep working on our health responses, which I think are much improved compared to a few months ago—we’re now doing more testing, we’re doing more tracing and our emergency wards and hospitals are no longer as full as they were a few months ago, all of these things will go a long way towards restoring confidence,” Angara said.

Angara pointed out that there would be an increase in the budget of the Department of Health (DOH) by 27 percent in 2021 compared to this year’s level.

“We just work and work to strengthen our health institutions. I think that’s the right track to take. We want to hire more health personnel, build more health facilities, be more responsive and expand the testing capacities,” Angara stressed.

Apart from restoring confidence, Angara said the relaxation of the quarantine rules and the opening up of more sectors should help in generating more economic activity for the country.

One particular aspect that Angara said should be addressed is transportation which continues to be a problem for Filipinos at this time when the economy is slowly being opened.

Once more modes of transportation become available to the people, Angara said this would result in “a feed-in effect to all other metrics”

“Right now many people are still discouraged from going out even though most commercial establishments have already resumed operations. A lot of this is due to the difficulty in transportation. We should see further improvement in our growth numbers once the availability of transport is addressed,” he added.

 
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