PH can still be upper-middle income in 2022 despite pandemic – NEDA
The coronavirus pandemic is 'just a temporary setback,' says Acting Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Chua

INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL HIT. Passengers not affected by the flight ban continue to arrive at the NAIA Terminal 1 in Pasay City on February 3, 2020. Photo by Jire Carreon/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – Acting Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Chua said the coronavirus pandemic has not dashed the country’s hopes of reaching upper-middle income status in 2022.

In a virtual press briefing on Saturday, May 9, he said the pandemic, which has crushed economies worldwide, is only a “setback.”

“I think this is just a temporary setback. We will try to catch up. If not next year, then 2022. That was our target anyway,” he said in Filipino during the Laging Handa press briefing.

He expressed hope that this target could even be reached this year.

Countries classified as upper-middle income economies have a gross national income (GNI) per capita between $3,956 and $12,235, according to the World Bank.

The GNI is a measurement of a country’s income. The Philippines’ GNI per capita or per person was at around $3,900 as of 2018.

Why does this matter? Chua’s statement comes in the heels of the government report that the economy contracted for the first time in 22 years, due to the pandemic.

The goss domestic product (GDP) for the 1st quarter contracted by 0.2% due to lockdowns, crippled supply chains, canceled vacations, and other consequences of the coronavirus crisis.

Back in July 2019, then-Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia said the country was likely to reach upper-middle income status in 2020.

Though this has been a target of the Duterte administration, analysts have pointed out that becoming upper-middle income may not be that impactful, especially to the poorest households.

Other countries with this status include Iran, Brazil, and Venezuela, who were all experiencing economic crises and persistent poverty even before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Despite the economic downturn in the economy, Chua said the government’s biggest consideration in deciding whether to relax lockdown measures is people’s lives.

“If the data shows the [COVID-19] cases are going down our that our healthcare system has sufficient capacity, or we have enough testing, then we can gradually open up our economy,” he said. – Pia Ranada/