Philippine Planning Head Aims to Reopen More to Spur Economy

The Philippine government can further loosen movement curbs before year-end to support a recovery from recession, according to Economic Planning Secretary Karl Chua, as the number of new coronavirus cases drop.

In areas where virus cases have declined, the local government can probably “experiment on hybrid, face-to-face classes” and allow more children and senior citizens to go out to spur economic activity at the end of 2020, Chua told a virtual forum by BusinessWorld.

“The opening of the economy appears to be the most important policy we should be pursuing,” said Chua, who expects the growth trajectory to return to pre-pandemic level by mid-2022. The size of a country’s stimulus package “doesn’t solely determine recovery,” Chua said, amid calls from tycoons and lawmakers for further fiscal support.

The Philippines will rely on a mix of fiscal and monetary policies, and will also have to address “many issues” in disbursing funds to aid the recovery, he added. He’s also banking on the timely passage of the 2021 budget and the enactment of bills aiming to cut corporate income taxes, providing tax perks on bank asset sales, and supporting insolvency problems of qualified companies.

The Philippines’ daily virus count has been below 2,000 since November 10 based on Bloomberg data, but it still has Southeast Asia’s second-worst outbreak with more than 421,000 infections as of Tuesday. The government must avoid returning to the region-wide strict quarantine imposed earlier this year and if needed, implement a more localized lockdown, Chua said.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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