Economist and professor Solita “Winnie” Monsod said on Wednesday, June 23, that the Filipinos need better leaders for the economy to bounce back from the coronavirus pandemic and for the country to be competitive again on the world stage.
During opposition coalition 1Sambayan’s virtual Business and Economics Townhall Meeting, the professor emeritus at the University of the Philippines’ School of Economics said that weak government policies and institutions have caused the Philippines’ slow growth in the past year.
“You need better leaders than you have now, that’s for sure. Because I’m saying that all the evidence shows this government failed and that’s why we grow so slowly,” Monsod said.
“Government policies and institutions are what I think—I mean are what have caused the differences in our growth rates between us and the Asean-5,” Monsod added.
Asean-5 refers to Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand, the five members of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) with open economies. They are also the founding members of the association.
Monsod said that the Philippines last year “grew so slow compared to the rest.” It is the slowest among the Asean-5 and East Asia.
“I think that reason and I think it is obvious in my presentation that the reason has to do with government implementation, capabilities and policy reforms and policy support,” she noted.
The latest figures showed that the country’s economy contracted by -4.2 percent in the first quarter of this year, compared to -0.7 percent during the same time last year. This means that the economy lost P187 billion in the first quarter alone.
The unemployment rate in April was at 8.7 percent. That is equal to 4.14 million unemployed individuals 15 years old and over in April 2021.
Monsod laid down “two basic requirements” for the economy’s recovery: controlling the pandemic and helping poor households and micro-small business industries and enterprises.
In particular, the economics professor wants the government to provide ayuda or cash aid to poor households so, like the United States’ stimulus package, they will have money to spend.
“This ayuda is the one that will help the government recover because the poor people spend on basic commodities which are produced by the small and micro enterprises,” she stressed.
For Monsod, the cash aid will keep the economy moving.
“You know, nakikita mo na (you can see that) they are not giving the correct emphasis. The poor have to be helped not only because, you know, they have no fault on this whole thing, but because giving them money will help revive the economy,” she said.
Vis-a-vis last year’s gross domestic product (GDP), the Philippine economy has already shrunk by P187 billion. Monsod said that the government only spent around P22.9 billion to fund the supplemental aid program.
She sounded the alarm on reports that the cash aid is not going to those who need it the most because the rich will not use that money to spend on micro-enterprises unlike the poor who will need it for basic needs.
“What does that show? It shows the incapacity of the government to implement a program efficiently,” Monsod said.