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Senators weigh in on ‘dismal’ GDP output, ask Palace to focus on food, step up spending

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Senators weighed in Friday on the country’s record low gross domestic product (GDP) performance, offering options the Duterte administration can consider for quick economic recovery.

Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto noted that despite the 9.5 percent contraction, government still turned in good spending numbers, “except in infrastructure, which it should have pumped more,” prompting him to wonder: “Where is the much-vaunted P1 trillion for the building spree? Recto also wants to know “why only P680 billion in 2020, which is 35 percent lower than last year?”

The senator suggested Friday other options the Duterte administration can consider to bounce back, reminding that the government turned in good spending numbers, “except in the sector which it should have pumped more—infrastructure.”

“Where is the much-vaunted P1 trillion for the building spree? Bakit P680 billion lang in 2020, which is 35 percent lower than last year?,” Recto asked.

In a news statement, Recto recommended available options the Duterte government can consider. “First, focus on food. If the GDP report card is bad, the GNP—the number of “Gutom na Pilipino”—is worse.

There should be a review of the farm-to-table chain. Every step, and not just focus on the narrative na “kasalanan ng middleman.”

“Many of the problems are upstream—production for one, and not just on overpricing. When traders are paraded as the usual suspects, we may not be able to find the real solution. The green shoots of economic recovery must be seen in our farms,” he said.

Noting that Filipino families on the average spend 43 percent of their income on food, Recto reminded that the bottom 30 percent, or about 7.42 million families, allot almost 60 percent of their income on food. “If the daily minimum wage won’t be enough to buy a pot of chicken tinola, then hunger becomes Covid’s deadliest side effect,” he added.

Moreover, the senator suggested that the Duterte administration officials concerned can “take advantage of the good weather window until mid-June to boost construction and agriculture.”

He added that  domestic tourism, too, provided protocols that are in place for people who would like to “take a leave from Netflix” to safely enjoy the outdoors, suggesting that government should “turn the entire country into a beehive of construction this summer—a physically distant, protocol compliant outdoor activity that can employ many. The senator suggested this can begin with health facilities.

Recto reminded: “Build while the sun is up, before the rains come, and the typhoons do damage. Step on the gas on vaccine procurement. Yan ang Artikulo Uno sa mga dapat gawin ng pamahalaan.

Joblessness is a result of jab-lessness. Vaccination injects the people with immunity and it injects the economy with vitality. Drop in consumption led to income loss of about P1.05 trillion last year, 15 percent of which, or P150 billion, is our projected vaccination bill.”

For her part, Senator Grace Poe prodded President Duterte’s economic managers to first “find money for the people before telling them to spend.”

Poe, in a separate statement, asked administration officials to address the unemployment problem if it intends to gear the economy towards a recovery instead of luring kids to go out of their homes.

“They have been telling people to go out and spend to prop up the economy. But before they can spend, they need to have the money to do so,” Poe pointed out, adding that “allowing kids to go out does not address that problem.”

The senator reminded that the Philippine economy plunged to its lowest last year since 1946 when government first started coming out with the data, contracting by 9.5 percent. On the production side, she added, agriculture, industry, and services all suffered declines, while on the expenditure side, only government spending grew as consumer spending, investments, exports and imports fell.

Poe pointed out that economists and businessmen have been calling for “a stronger fiscal stimulus” since last year to prevent the closure of companies and prevent the loss of jobs, adding that “if we are to heal as one, we need to listen to all stakeholders.”

“Wage subsidies would have put money in people’s pockets so they can spend,” Poe said.

Image credits: Nonie Reyes
Read full article on BusinessMirror

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