MANILA—Due to weak health infrastructure, the economy of the Philippines was hit hardest among the countries in Asia at 16.5 percent contraction of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) when the COVID-19 pandemic strike, a Filipino think-thank claimed on Saturday, Aug.08 in the DZRH Special On Saturday (SOS) program.
Sonny Africa, executive director of Ibon Foundation, lamented that the present administration had reduced the budget of the health infrastructure from P20 billion in 2018 to barely P2 billion in 2020 that weakened the government’s response to the pandemic.
“Dapat itinuring ng gobyerno na bahagi ng economic fundamentals natin ‘yong kahandaan ng sistema ng kalusugan. Pero, dahil nga sa patakaran ng pribatisasyon at dahil dun sa pagkatay ng public health system mas kumitid pa,” Africa said.
(The government should had considered as part of our economic fundamentals the preparedness of health system. However, because of the privatization policy and because the public health system was cut into pieces it shrank further.)
He argued that if there’s really strong economic fundamentals as illustrated by the government economic managers in their quarter reports, the economy will not easily bottom out.
Africa said countries were hit by the pandemic but the fall of the economy depends on the response of the government.
“Isang tampok noong nakaraang araw ang pagbagsak ng ekonomiya natin. Iyong mga karatig na bansa na ganun din katagal ang pandemya sa kanila mas maagap ang pagtugon nila; mas maagap na hinarap ang paghinto ng virus, at mas malaking tulong ang binigay sa kanilang mamamayan, hindi ganun kalaki ang pagbagsak ng ekonomiya, hindi kalaki ang pagkalat ng pandemya,” he said.
(One topic the previous day is the fall of our economy. The neighboring countries with the same duration of the pandemic in their places quickly responded; more quickly faced to stop the virus, and bigger assistance were given to their citizens, the economy did not shrink much, the pandemic did not spread wide.)
Africa said the Philippines has the biggest economic contraction at 16.5 percent while other Asian countries like Vietnam even experienced 0.4 percent growth while the economies of Thailand and Malaysia shrank 10 percent to 13 percent, respectively.
He said that since April, Filipinos have already felt the brunt of the pandemic since it is not the abstract statistics that count but the daily grind without livelihood, decline of income source and continuing poverty because of the lockdown.
“Para sa amin ang tampok dito ay hindi ‘yong pagkalat ng pandemya kundi ano ‘yong hindi nagawa ng pamahalaan at ano ang pwedeng gawin para maghabol,” Africa said.
(For us, the important thing here is not the spread of the pandemic but what the government has not done and what can be done to catch up.)
He blamed the government for the fall of the economy.
Africa said it took three months to reach the record of 10,000 cases but the last 10,000 cases recorded took only three days which makes him think the pandemic will get worse in the next six months.
He wondered how it happened when the rapid increase of cases came after the lockdown.