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The long and winding road to recovery

"This is all because we did the wrong things at the wrong time."

 

It’s not going to be a V-shaped recovery for the Philippine economy. It’s going to be a long flat line at the bottom, gradually starting a recovery sometime in 2022, and depending on the leadership we elect, it could be a sloping, rather than a steep climb upwards.

All the signs are there. We have been on lockdown, albeit recently eased up a bit, since mid-March. After 90 days, we will extend the GCQ by another 15 days, because we are far from flattening the curve, and as physicians from many hospitals fear, we may be entering a second wave, even if we haven’t licked the first. Correction: since Secretary Duque said we are already on the second wave, to him, and only him, we may be entering the third wave, even if every other medical professional in the country are snickering.

Meanwhile, businesses are bleeding, and government, which could otherwise provide a Keynesian salva vida amidst the depression following Covid, is bereft of wherewithal, other than less than about 80 million dollars in foreign reserves, which can only stretch so much in foreign borrowings.

Can you imagine eateries being told to utilize only 30 percent of its rented space, because the viral infection is still feared to spread without stringent “social” distancing? How in heaven’s name could you survive on that? Maybe if you charged a P3,000 per head average tab, sans libation. But how many have that kind of disposable income in this market?

All because we did the wrong things at the wrong time to confront the unseen and mysterious health enemy.

But I am tired of writing about the duke of health. It seems we will have to endure him till the middle of 2022. And he has brought down our economy, as secretary of health and chair of the Inter-Agency Task Force along with him.

**

Thinking ahead, and foreseeing a battered economy with practically every sector (even the OFW phenomenon) prostrate, it may be appropriate for the electorate to look beyond the current crop of politicians, young and old or in-between, celebrity or international pugilist, in making a choice of the next president after Rodrigo Roa Duterte.

Maybe it’s time to look for a businessman to lead us next. Not a theoretical economist who has never run even a grocery, but a businessman who has shown real, measurable success in running a business with payrolls to meet and deadlines to deliver. Preferably someone who rose from the ranks, and not someone whose father or even grandfather left him an empire to run.

That kind of a leader after PRRD may be able to offer real solutions to endemic problems hounding both economy and polity. Someone with competence, character and demonstrated compassion, who can use these qualities with a huge dose of common sense, and will brook no nonsense from the traditional politicians.

Definitely not a populist who will be everything to everyone, achieving nothing while bankrupting near empty government coffers. Not a bleeding heart (or pretends to be) who will use the masses as fodder for ineptitude.

Hard decisions will need to be implemented within a restructured polity where good sense will prevail over the usual sentimentality.

**

Next week, unless some earth-shaking developments occur later this week, other than the increasing number of Covid infections which might reach 40,000 by the time the President has to make another decision about the severity of quarantines, we will write more about the economic fall-out and possibly prescribe some prescriptions.

For now, I can only report how Taiwan was jolted by first, a strong earthquake early Sunday morning which registered Intensity 6 at its epicenter in the eastern seaboard. No fatalities or serious damage to property though were noted.

The other jolt was to learn that after more than two months of no local additional infections, the number of Covid infections rose from 443 to 445 last Monday. The two new additions were a Taiwanese couple who work in Bangladesh, felt symptoms, and immediately flew to Taipei via Malaysia last June 12.

Taking the usual precautions during their flight, the (Taiwan’s version of our IATF) immediately traced the 37 flight crew members and passengers in the rows proximate to where the couple sat, and were effectively quarantined. There are only five people still undergoing treatment for Covid 19 in Taiwan.

Meanwhile, MECO still has its visa issuances suspended for the last 90 days, and we have to subsist on savings generated over the past three years, plus the little revenues generated from passport renewals of Filipinos residing or working in Taiwan. Yet we must meet a payroll and pay the rent and utilities, overhead costs that we cannot forestall. We are a microcosm of the Philippine government, which has to spend albeit thriftily, but hardly gets the projected revenues.

Hard decisions have been made, and will continue to be made, because MECO generates its own wherewithal, its own ways and means, without a single centavo from the national government to which it actually contributes part of its gross revenues.

Topics: Lito Banayo , Philippine economy , coronavirus disease 2019 , COVID-19 , Taiwan , CECC
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