Gov’t leads whole-of-society efforts for economic recovery

Published May 6, 2021, 12:08 AM

by Manila Bulletin

At a job summit convened by the task group of the National Economic Recovery Strategy held last Labor Day, the country’s top economic managers rallied business, industry and civil society leaders in adopting a whole-of-society approach to economic recovery.

Socio-Economic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick Chua pointed out that the government has allocated P2.5 trillion, or 14 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP); of this amount P2 trillion will come from the 2021 General Appropriations Act or national budget approved by Congress.

Additionally, the government is spending P478 billion in fiscal measures this year including: P317 billion from the Bayanihan to Recover as One (Bayanihan 2); P23 billion Social Amelioration Program 2 for the National Capital Region, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal or the NCR Plus; and P138 billion tax breaks to all enterprises under the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises (CREATE) law.

Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon Lopez underlined the urgency of job recovery and job creation measures, including a wage subsidy equivalent to P8,000 per month for a maximum of three months to affected workers through the payroll system of establishments that closed or suspended operations due to the pandemic. As of February 2021, some 4.2 million Filipinos were jobless, a record-level unemployment arising from the pandemic’s crippling effects.

According to a World Bank survey, only 63 percent of businesses were open in November 2020; only nine percent of surveyed firms were operating at full capacity. Below-capacity operations have been attributed to financial constraints (52 percent) and insufficient consumer demand (19 percent).

Complementary measures to revitalize the economy include: Youth employability programs costing P1.75 billion for 85,159 beneficiaries; further aid to companies through low-interest loans, deferment of applicable fees and upgrading of processes.  For vulnerable groups such as the working poor, and marginalized workers, social protection, capacity building and livelihood programs will be offered.

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) lauded the government’s whole-of-society approach, vowing to work with the government and labor and industry stakeholders to flesh out appropriate programs. The World Bank underlined the crucial importance of supporting the continuity of the country’s “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure program that involves around 200,000 jobs. The International Labor Organization (ILO) highlighted four areas of policy action: “Stimulate the economy and employment; support enterprises, jobs and income; protect workers in the workplace; and rely on social dialogue to find solutions.”

The Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) has reiterated the private sector’s strong “commitment and constant cooperation to realize the outcomes espoused in the National Employment Recovery Strategy to restart economic activities by revitalizing domestic demand and business activities.”

Finally, there is need for retooling and upskilling programs to address shifts in the labor market and ensure a future-ready Filipino workforce.  As the pandemic has accelerated the pace of digital transformation, it is the government’s duty to assist those that are dislocated to rejoin the workforce in other productive areas.