Employers strongly urged the government to speed up reopening of the domestic economy, warning that the huge stimulus packages would just all be for naught if the economy remains on lockdown as business edges into a black hole.
At the opening of the virtual 42nd National Employers Conference on the theme “Reform. Rebound. Recover” keynoted by Vice-President Leni Robredo, Employers Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP) Chairman Edgardo G. Lacson warned, “It must be told that during a crisis in the magnitude of the COVID 19 pandemic, slow bureaucracy kills businesses and kills lives.”
Lacson feared that the government could just be throwing away the P770 billion economic stimulus packages under the Bayanihan 1, 2 and 3 if the is not freed up. “I feel a huge amount dedicated to stimulus may just be throwing good money after bad if the economy remains on lockdown and business edges into a black hole,” he said.
“Let us dare to free up the economy now and give us a chance to reform, rebound and recover,” he said adding that science may not completely defeat COVID-19.
“We just have to follow health protocols and learn to live with the virus,” he said because unless the targeted 70 percent herd immunity is achieved, various levels of quarantine status will remain in full force and effect.
But as quarantine remains, he said more business will remain closed and higher unemployment ensues.
Lacson also criticized a high-ranking government official for quickly dismissing the country’s bottom-dweller economic statistics among its peers. This is further compounded by too many instant experts contradicting official pronouncements leading to delayed and conflicted bureaucratic response, he said.
ECOP President Sergio Ortiz-Luis Jr. also said that the industry’s transformation last year from the traditional mode to something acceptable to the 21st century has not been sufficient. This is the reason for ECOP’s advocacy that revolves around “Reform. Rebound. Recovery”.
“We cannot be forever terrorized by the coronavirus. It is imperative that we keep the economy open and businesses operational,” he pointed out.
He said that policies, whether at the legislative or executive branch of the government, must be translated into genuine policy reforms, not just fiscal and economic, but also labor and social. However, the private sector could not do this alone.
To do this, Ortiz-Luis said that business should be afforded with flexibility so that it may be able to survive, thrive, grow, and expand despite the many threats and risks.
He urged that business be allowed to regain momentum, citing promising employment figures in April this year where labor force participation rate is 63.2 percent compared to the previous year’s 55.7 percent, surpassing the 2019 figure of 61.4 percent.
Employment rate is now at 91.3 percent from last year’s 82.4 percent, but still 3.6 percent short from April 2019. Unemployment is now down to 8.7 percent from a record- high of 17.6 percent, but still far from the 5.1 percent rate of 2019.
“To summarize, 2021 labor market now shows better prospects. I am hopeful that better days are coming,” he added.
George Barcelon, 42nd NCE Conference chairman, explained that “Reform. Rebound. Recover” theme for this year’s conference was painstakingly designed and developed.
This is to ensure that it will come up with a program that begins with situationers on socio-economic developments. This will lay down the groundwork for socio-economic and labor reforms, which will lead to health and economic programs aimed at facilitating rebound through the safe reopening of the economy and restoration of business confidence. These will also finally build up on new and emerging trends in the world of work that businesses must be able to keep up with on the road to recovery.
“All these culminate with a set of conference resolutions and an MOU signing led by the principal actors of economic recovery,” he said. The long 42nd NCE celebration will culminate on June 30 with the signing of a pledge to create 1 million jobs over the next six months by ECOP and government agencies.