“It will not be missed.”
It is not difficult to describe the year that has just come to an end. That’s because 2021 was dominated by only three events, to wit, the gradual improvement in the COVID-19 situation, the slow but steady turnaround of the Philippine economy, and the build-up of political activity related to the May 2022 national election.
The coronavirus-generated lockdowns, which with varying degrees of severity had been in place since March 2020, began to manifest the desired effect during the first weeks of 2021, with the infection, hospitalization and mortality rates beginning to either decline or hold steady. Then the worst fears of the epidemiologists materialized in late March. The IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases) placed the NCR (National Capital Region) and the immediately surrounding regions under ECQ (Enhanced Community Quarantine), the most severe quarantine level, again. By the time the ECQ was lifted, the damage had been done: the first signs of economic recovery had been smothered. It was back to Square 1 for the economy.
The economy began to display resilience with the return to the more benign GCQ (General Community Quarantine) regimes. With greater public mobility and reduced restrictions on specified productive activities, the economy managed to generate 4.1 percent GDP (gross domestic product) growth in the April-to-June quarter.
The slow but steady recovery of the economy was helped much by the start, around April, of the government’s vaccine rollout program. With many manufacturing establishments stepping up their operations and consumers beginning to feel confident about venturing out of their homes, economic activity perceptively was on the rise. When IATF was compelled to place the NCR and adjacent areas under ECQ again in late August, the Philippine economy had already made significant progress in the direction of recovery. GDP growth in the third quarter was a surprising 7.1 percent.
The recovery momentum had reached a point, toward year-end, where economists were unsure not about whether the economy would continue to recover but about what the extent of the economy would be. The appearance of a new variant, named Omicron, at year-end, tempered expectations but the consensus among economists was that fourth-quarter GDP growth would be in the vicinity of 5 percent and that the January-to-September average growth of 4.7 percent would become a near-5 percent full-year GDP growth.
Beginning mid-2021, the wheels of the nation’s political machines started to rev up in anticipation of the general election that loomed less than a year away; by September, just before the deadline for candidate nominations, the machines were in high gear. Most of the nation’s important work was put to one side as this country’s political leaders jostled and jockeyed for the right to be chosen as the presidential, vice-presidential and senatorial candidates of the political parties. In the end, five men and one woman were standing as candidates for the highest position in the land.
Thus did 2021 come and go. It was a bad year not only for the economy but for the nation as a whole. It will not be missed.