Gov’t, businesses told: Set aside growth targets, focus on public health

Ralf Rivas

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Gov’t, businesses told: Set aside growth targets, focus on public health

Economists from the Ateneo de Manila University urge the Philippines' top 30 companies to donate at least P1 billion each to combat the coronavirus

MANILA, Philippines – Economists from the Ateneo de Manila University appealed to both the government and the private sector to “set aside growth targets” and revenue goals this year and focus on addressing the socioeconomic needs of people amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Economic stimulus to induce economic growth is not useful at this stage of the pandemic,” the Ateneo Center for Economic Research and Development and faculty members of the Ateneo Department of Economics said in a joint statement.

They recommended the reallocation of significant portions of the 2020 national budget to health and medical services, full protection of health workers, providing social protection to the poor, and efforts to address the economic and social costs of the Luzon-wide lockdown.

“In addition, there is still a large unused budget for 2019 with an unobligated P1.1 trillion. Based on [Republic Act No.] 11464, funds in 2019 are allowed to be used in 2020 hence this can also be reallocated to fund these tasks,” the economists said. (WATCH: Rappler Talk: Saving the economy from a pandemic)

For the private sector, they asked for the top 30 companies in the Philippines to contribute P1 billion each.

The following are some of their other recommendations to government and the private sector:

  • Large-scale procurement of personal protective equipment (PPE) for frontline health workers and systems to protect frontliners from the virus. Incentivize local clothes manufacturers to refocus production to PPE.
  • Ensure adequate testing kits, testing equipment, ventilators, life support, medical supplies, and health infrastructure to accommodate critical patients. Give additional funds to government hospitals, especially those critical in providing assistance to infected patients.
  • Appropriate P50 million for each Department of Health hospital (about 69 based on the agency’s website) or about P3.5 billion for PPE and medicine.
  • Set up a common fund for hospitals where everybody can donate to buy medical needs, support health workers, and other frontliners.
  • Request technical support from China based on their Wuhan experience on the production of PPE, health protocols, etc.
  • Include the Philippines in ongoing trials of potential coronavirus vaccines.
  • Provide income support by expanding the unconditional cash transfers to address needs of the vulnerable population.
  • Call on large food producers to work together to guarantee food supply throughout the year. Ration food supplies in the immediate short term to guarantee availability and access to sufficient food supply for everyone.
  • Hire logistics and movers to move food, medicines, and medical staff. This would cost about P10 billion, based on the income of public transport workers per month.

The Philippines’ confirmed coronavirus cases stood at 501 as of Tuesday morning, March 24. At least 33 have died. –

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Ralf Rivas

A sociologist by heart, a journalist by profession. Ralf is Rappler's business reporter, covering macroeconomy, government finance, companies, and agriculture.