PH ‘vulnerable’ to another surge in COVID-19 cases, says Fitch Solutions
The Philippines is at risk of further COVID-19 outbreaks this 2021, that will expose the limited funding allocation toward the pandemic response and lead to a wider budget deficit, think tank Fitch Solutions said.
In a research note issued yesterday, Fitch Solutions pointed out that the budget allotment of P221 billion for pandemic response this year accounted for only 4.9 percent of the total national budget and only 1.1 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).
“Given that the Philippines has experienced the second highest fatality rate in the South East Asia region, after Indonesia, and the discovery of more contagious strains in the [United Kingdom] and South Africa, the Philippines remains vulnerable to another surge in COVID-19 cases,” the paper said.
“We expect the Philippines to lag behind other Asia-Pacific economies in securing vaccines for the population, which will mean risks remain elevated through 2021,” it added.
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Fitch Solutions noted that education, infrastructure allocations had edged out health funding in the P4.5-trillion Philippine 2021 budget that was enacted into law at end-December last year. There was a 9.9-percent increase in expenditure relative to the 2020 budget.
The national budget of P4.5 trillion was equivalent to around a quarter of the country’s GDP.
The Department of Budget and Management had said that the proposed national budget for 2021 would focus on containing the spread and mitigating the effects of the coronavirus while restarting the economy to help the nation reset, rebound and recover from the pandemic.
The 2021 budget sets aside P72.5 billion for the purchase of COVID-19 vaccines, which the government targets to administer to the general population by the second quarter of 2021. Of this amount, P2.5 billion is lodged under the Department of Health, while P70 billion is under unprogrammed appropriations, dependent upon the availability of government revenues in 2021.
The budget also earmarks P283 million for the establishment of the Virology Science and Technology Institute of the Philippines that would spearhead studies on emerging and reemerging viruses, and P51.56 million for disease surveillance and monitoring of coronavirus. INQ
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