The Bayanihan To Recover As One Act or Bayanihan 2 bill will not be enough to support the economic recovery of the country, a University of the Philippines (UP) economist said on Tuesday.
During the general membership meeting of Chamber of Thrift Banks (CTB), UP School of Economics professor emerita Solita Collas-Monsod stressed the government has failed to get its job done in the second quarter of the year, as indicated by the -16.5 percent contraction of the Philippine economy and the 17.7 percent jobless rate during the period.
She added that the government did “too little, too late” on the economic side as there were not enough funds allocated for coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic response.
“The Budget for Bayanihan 1 was P390 billion, which is 1.93 percent of GDP (gross domestic product). Other countries that have done relatively better were allocating funds that are equivalent to 5 to 21 percent of GDP to confront Covid,” Monsod said.
Enacted on March 24 this year, Bayanihan 1 or the “Bayanihan to Heal as One Act” allowed President Rodrigo Duterte to tap all available state resources to contain the spread of Covid-19 and provide subsidies of between P5,000 and P8,000 to poor and low-income households.
Despite this, Monsod claimed that only 68 percent of the Bayanihan 1 funds were spent as of June 29 this year.
She added the government has failed to take advantage of the opportunity to correct its mistakes in the second quarter of the year by ratifying the current version of the Bayanihan 2 bill.
“They saw the drop in employment, the drop in incomes. So, they have the opportunity to correct it in the second half by passing Bayanihan 2. But my God, Bayanihan 2, if you add it all together, is only 0.7 percent of GDP,” the UP economist said.
“We spent 1.3 percent (of GDP) in the first half and got nowhere. You think we’ll get somewhere by spending only 0.7 percent? This is to cushion (the economy),” she added.
The P140-billion Bayanihan 2 bill grants special powers anew to President Rodrigo Duterte to best deal with the Covid-19 pandemic by providing additional emergency subsidy of P5,000 to P8,000 to affected low-income households in areas under enhanced community quarantine and to households with recently returned overseas Filipino workers.
But Monsod noted that the government’s priorities under the bill “are misplaced.”
“The people, especially the poor, are always the last priority. The first priority, I tell you, seems to be the credit rating of the country,” she added.
Thus, Monsod has urged the private sector to take over and do its part to help uplift the economy.
In particular, she cited the role of the thrift banking industry to the recovery of small businesses, which were largely affected by the economic impact of the pandemic.
“The thrift banks…. It’s going to be all up to you because you are the ones that are closest to the micro, small and medium enterprises,” Monsod told the members of CTB.
“The thrift banks are in a particularly critical position to be able to help the small businesses and the small consumers get over it. The priority should be the most vulnerable population,” she added.