NEDA cites greater mobility for optimism


    Socioeconomic Secretary Karl Chua remains optimistic despite the recent growth downgrade of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for the economy this year, as he cited improved mobility data and amid measures to slowly and safely ease restrictions.

    The IMF has lowered its growth projection for the country to 3.2 percent from its earlier outlook of 5.4 percent. The latest figure falls below the government’s growth assumption of four to five percent for the year.

    “I would be more optimistic than the IMF. I continuously monitor the daily data, the third quarter GDP (gross domestic product) will be released in the second week of November, and although we have used the same terms (of quarantine restrictions) this year compared to last year, once you get to the nuance of that you would find, for instance major differences,” said Chua, National Economic and Development Authority secretary, at the Senate committee on finance hearing on the agency’s 2022 budget yesterday.

    “For instance, Google mobility data shows that even at the same level of enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) classification. Our workers are just down going to the office 20 percent. Last year around this time, it was down by 50 percent. We continuously monitor this data, and I think given the more mobility that we have, the economy would not see the same fate as we saw last year,” he added.

    Chua also reiterated that the economic team has pushed hard on the further reopening of the economy.

    “That is.. one thing that we are seeing, we are moving away from ECQ (enhanced community quarantine), we have a new system, alert one to four, focusing only the quarantines or lockdowns on a more granular scale. I have also pushed the reopening of face-to-face class, we will pilot it next month,” Chua said.

    “A lot of our restrictions, have been lifted, only focusing on three Cs: closed areas, the ones where you have close contacts, and crowds,” he added.

    At the hearing, Chua was asked by Senate minority leader Franklin Drilon why “we are in this situation, why we suffer because of the economic situation,” as he mentioned that other countries have fared better during the pandemic, insofar as the economy is concerned.

    “I have always been a proponent of better balancing the two important facets of our lives today COVID and non-COVID. In the past, we have been too focused narrowly on COVID.

    And this has led to other consequences, such as what you have mentioned, the higher incidence of people not having jobs or seeing their income diminish,” Chua said.

    “We are also constrained by the vaccine supply, but the supplies that we have, we have shown that we can inoculate up to 500,000 per day,” he added.

    Meanwhile, restaurant, gym and personal care services owners and operators have expressed full support to a proposal of presidential adviser on entrepreneurship a to lower alert levels in Metro Manila .

    Concepcion has been calling on the government to lower the alert levels in the National Capital Region from Alert Level 4 to Alert Level 3 or 2 in the last two and a half months of 2021 to pave way for 50-percent or even 70-percent indoor capacity for restaurants and personal care services for fully vaccinated customers.

    Concepcion is appealing for the reopening of other industries, such as cinemas, derma clinics, and wellness spas for the fully vaccinated across all alert levels. Based on the government’s alert levels, the aforementioned industries are only allowed to operate under Alert Level 2.

    Currently, indoor capacities for dine-in services and personal care services are now at 20 percent for fully vaccinated customers, but establishments can accommodate up to 30 percent provided they have safety seal certification.

    Gyms and fitness studios are also allowed to reopen under Alert Level 4 at a limited 20 percent capacity for fully vaccinated clients, provided that all gym workers are also fully vaccinated. with Irma Isip