According to the World Bank’s East Asia and Pacific Economic Update report, the Philippines’ dependence on prolonged lockdowns instead of mass testing caused economic deterioration, while its regional neighbors—such as China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia and Laos—have already begun to recover.
Because these countries focused on mass testing, mobility restrictions were not as strict, which led to gross domestic product (GDP) growth. Compared to Vietnam, which grew by 2.9%, China, which grew by 2.3% and Laos, by 0.4%, the Philippine economy shrank by a whopping 9.5%, its worst performance since after the Second World War.
The financial body also cut its 2021 growth prediction for the nation down to 5.5% from 5.9%, which is still under the government’s conservative GDP target of 6.5 to 7.5%.
Their report noted that the country “underspent” on economic stimulus “due to weak implementation.” Data from the Asian Development Bank’s member countries’ Covid19 policy measures showed that as of last week, the Philippines had some P1.26 trillion to fight the pandemic. The government’s monetary response stood at approximately P11,664 per Filipino.
Covid19 variants are also expected to aggravate outcomes as these affect vaccines’ effectiveness and coverage levels required to achieve herd immunity.
“In countries where Covid19 control has not been achieved, like the Philippines, rapid vaccination is a priority to reduce high numbers of deaths and pressure on struggling health systems,” the World Bank said.
For their part, Malacañang said that the nation was no longer under lockdown and the economy reopened despite movement restrictions within the National Capital Region Plus bubble.
“On the prolonged lockdown, this is the reason why we opted not to MECQ [modified enhanced community quarantine] or ECQ [enhanced community quarantine] even if there is a surge in the cases because it is important really to ensure that the economy is open so that our countrymen will not starve,” said presidential spokesperson Harry Roque.
However, on Saturday last week, the government declared ECQ from March 29 to April 4 in an effort to curb the surge in infections.