In the Palace briefing Tuesday, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III was sharing to the Cabinet and members of the IATF committee that the Philippine economy inspite its dismal 0.2 percent performance for the first quarter is resilient.
Despite the contraction in the gross domestic product (GDP), Dominguez, quoting what he called “highly respected” magazine, The Economist, that the country “ranked among the best” from Southeast Asia.
Actual ranking was number six among its 66 emerging peers with the “highest level” in fiscal strength based on public and foreign obligations and reserve cover. “This assessment shows that the country continues to enjoy the confidence of the international community, which will a long way in bolstering our recovery efforts,” Dominguez explains.
The manner and the tone by which the finance secretary was briefing the President and his men, I am not pretty sure if Dominguez was trying to convince himself, or convince both – himself and his official Palace family. Most economic kibitzers, who watched the briefing, however, say both.
Because this no matter how rosy Dominguez would try to paint the economy, this early several economic analysts have detected certain cracks in the domestic economy that could negate this resiliency. These fissures are already showing and as obvious as your sweat from the scourging heat of the sun.
How could one explain that with only 15 days to the COVID-19 lockdown, the economy shrunk to its lowest since 1998. Previously, the Duterte economic managers have downplayed the risk effect of the Taal eruption on the economy. In the same breath, they placed the threat posed by the virus as placed 0.3 percent.
Now, Officer-in-charge and Socio-economic Planning Secretary-designate Karl Kendrik Chua was singing another tune, admitting that the “risks and shocks” from the eruption plus the health pandemic that triggered the lockdown “come at great cost” to the domestic economy, the reason for “weaker performance.”
So, where is the resiliency we’re talking about here?
The ECQ implemented nearly a couple of months ago could be likened to a Harry Potter twirling his magical wand, momentarily putting a stop on the manufacturing, construction and services sectors. Tourism, an important segment of the services sector and contributes roughly 2.9 percent, is on a stand still because travel is prohibited.
The first three months of the year, we all saw GDP spiraled down to the negative zone, the first time in over two decades. Except for the essentials, these three life blood sectors of the domestic economy are still in suspended animation. I shuddered thinking how big the fall would be for second quarter and the consolidated first semester performance.
This may be late but another fissure that recently showed-up was the uncanny reaction of former movie idol turned local politician, Ormoc City Mayor Richard Gomez, on the question posed PCOO Undersecretary Rocky Ignacio on the closure of ABS-CBN several days back.
As I see it, instead of getting certain comfort, it boomeranged. For us watching, we sensed the uneasyness of the PCOO official on Gomez’ comment, which went viral, blaming the government for the shutdown.
Cracks and fissures are everywhere.
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