Challenges in the last quarter
It’s the start of the “ber” months.
Following tradition, some radio and TV stations are expected to begin the countdown for the holiday season amid reports that this month may see an upsurge in the Delta variant and that many hospitals are being overwhelmed by an increase in infections.
Then there’s the festering unemployment problem.
The Philippine Statistics Authority had reported that last June, some 3.78 million Filipinos age 15 years and above were unemployed compared to 3.73 million in May.
In light of the strict quarantine measures imposed last month, it is doubtful if those figures would improve favorably in the coming months. It may even worsen.
In a recent webinar, a country director of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) said the Philippines’ gross domestic product was expected to recover to prepandemic levels sometime in late 2023.
The ADB’s assessment does not jibe with the government economic managers’ optimistic forecast that recovery would come by the end of 2022 or, at the latest, early 2023.
Give or take a few months, both appraisals indicate that the remaining months of this year and the whole of 2022 would be periods of economic difficulties.
And then there is next year’s national and local elections.
Once the filing of certificates of candidacy starts next month and the campaign period commences, expect economic issues to take a backseat.
Given these circumstances, the much-awaited light at the end of the economic tunnel may be long in coming, a prospect that’s making the business community jittery.
For now, businesses that are still operating have two significant concerns to attend to, namely, make full use of the relaxation of quarantine restrictions to do more business and ensure the health and productivity of their staff.
And since December is just around the corner, they may also have to start shoring up funds to pay their employees’ 13th month pay and, if their collective bargaining agreement so provides, an additional Christmas bonus. (Oh, some people can be so lucky even during these times!)
The scenario may not be as bleak as it may appear to be. According to an independent medical monitoring group, the infection rate may go down considerably after the anticipated upsurge this month.
This prediction is premised on the assumption that the government intensifies its vaccination program and prescribed health protocols are strictly enforced.
With regard to the former, some business conglomerates should be commended for taking it upon themselves—and at their expense—the vaccination of their employees.
If that forecast bears fruit and quarantine restrictions are further relaxed, the succeeding weeks may see a substantial increase in business activities, which could coincide with the spending spree that, based on past experience, usually happens on the first and second weeks before Christmas.
It is common knowledge that in the runoff to the holiday season, most Filipinos are more liberal with their spending so they can enjoy what is reputed to be the happiest time of the year. Even Filipinos with marginal income find ways and means to raise money for Christmas shopping no matter how small.
The renewed activity could make up for the past months when most Filipinos were forced to hunker down in their homes and avoided trips to commercial establishments.
Note that the Christmas season is the period during prepandemic days when commercial establishments earn a substantial portion of their earnings for the entire year.
Something similar, although on a much limited scale, may result if more people are allowed to move around and the pandemic eases up a bit.
From all indications, this year will be no different from last year in terms of economic hardships. Hopefully, 2022 will be a better year. INQ
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