Time to help
"If we all do a good job, annual real economic growth in 2021 will be a stupendous 7.1 to 8.1 percent."When lockdowns in whatever form are phased out, hopefully, on May 30, the job of reviving the economy and reconstruction begins in earnest. Revival is a herculean if not a revolutionary task. On May 13, the government gave its bleakest outlook for the economy yet in 34 years, a contraction of between 2 percent and 3.4 percent in real terms, or minus the effect of inflation, for 2020 in the output of goods and services or Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The pandemic will cost the economy P2 trillion or 9.4 percent of GDP. A GDP growth decline of 2 to 3.4 percent is the lowest ever since the drop in growth rate of 7.4 percent in 1984, a year after the assassination of opposition leader Benigno S. Aquino Jr.. The slump of 1984 was the worst recession then in the country’s history. That was solved by the People Power revolution of 1986. After that, the next slowdown took place in the last quarter of 1998 and into the first quarter of 1999, when growth was negative 0.6 percent. The 1998 recession was solved mainly by a focus by President Joseph Estrada on agriculture whose output rose to its highest ever, by 6.2 percent, a growth rate never since duplicated or surpassed. Since then, agriculture growth has averaged 0.2 percent, a rate one-tenth of the annual increase in population. Hence, we have a perennial food shortage and gnawing food poverty. This year’s economic collapse will be the worst ever. In 1984, although credit stopped and production stopped, mobility of people was not stopped. So the underground economy surged, including the dollar blackmarket, and functioned mightily. It saved the day for many Filipinos. During this year of the worst economic crisis ever, the government needs a lot of help. All hands must be on deck and help steady the ship of state. Whether by design or by the exigency of the times, the captain may be wooly or wishy-washy at times but my God, he is the man in charge. So let’s help him steer the ship. The waters are deep, dark and foreboding, making the journey perilous and in all likelihood ruinous. President Duterte’s newly-minted economic planning secretary and NEDA chief, Karl Kendrick Chua, 41, has a master’s degree and a doctorate, both in economics. So he knows his marbles, unlike the college dropout Estrada of 1998. Chua’s solution is two-pronged – agriculture and digitalization which means installing the long-delayed National ID System.