September 17, 2020

Whole-of-society cooperation and maintaining the minimum health standards will ensure gradual resumption in livelihood and poverty reduction as the economy safely opens up, the National Economic and Development Authority said.

In an interview with ABS-CBN News Channel Dateline Philippines on September 11, 2020, Acting Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick T. Chua said that though we might see a temporary increase in urban poverty because of the pandemic and quarantine in urban areas, a gradual recovery of the economy can be achieved so long as we allow the economy to safely open up.

“The pandemic is largely affecting urban areas where the larger cities, like Metro Manila and Cebu, tend to have more cases and that is why we imposed the ECQ and now the GCQ,” according to the NEDA chief.

“This indicates that the impact on the rural areas is minimal, if at all. So, we are going to make sure that the urban poor and those affected by the quarantines will get the support that they need to prevent further deterioration,” Chua said.

He also added that our recovery and the kinds of jobs that will be available will mostly depend on personal behavior and our ability to practice minimum health standards.

“Right now we are seeing a gradual recovery of the economy and employment has bounced back significantly. There’s a lot of uncertainty but the general direction is that we are going to see more opening up of the economy and we are going to make sure that people who are not able to work will be supported,” he said.

Chua mentioned that government interventions through the recently enacted Bayanihan Act II, which includes cash-for-work programs, emergency subsidies, funds for the micro, small, and medium enterprises through the banking sector, among others, will help support economic recovery.

“The real solution here is to open as much of the economy in the safest possible way. The government is proposing a higher budget next year. We are going to put PhP1.12 trillion in infrastructure that will create around 1.5 million jobs,” he said.

“Next year, we are expecting unemployment to reduce further to between 6-8 percent from the 10 percent that we see now, and the economy growing between 6.5 to 7.5 percent. That will limit the impact on the people,” he said.

Chua also noted that in terms of getting back on track to reducing the poverty incidence in the country, the pace will also depend on when the vaccine will be available, so that we can fully open the economy.

“We achieved a significant gain in our poverty reduction effort. In 2016 we promised to reduce the number of poor people by around 6 million by 2022 and we achieved almost that number four years ahead of schedule in 2018. As of 2018 our poverty rate has gone down from 23.5 percent in 2015 to 16.7 percent in 2018,” Chua noted.

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