CEOs call for more money for health care
MANILA, Philippines — Chief executive officers (CEOs) of some of the country’s largest corporations said the government should prioritize investments in health care over the next two years to kickstart the country’s recovery from the devastation caused by the lingering COVID-19 pandemic.
This was according to the latest survey conducted from July to August this year by audit firm PwC Philippines in partnership with the Management Association of the Philippines (MAP). It drew responses from 178 MAP CEO-level members, the largest sample size in seven years.
Asked to rank the areas that should be given more budget and resources for the country to recover from the pandemic, health care topped the list of CEOs, followed by infrastructure and then education.
In a briefing on the findings on Monday, MAP President Aurelio Montinola III said he liked the fact that the survey respondents picked the health-care system as the top priority, noting that the government had not delivered on its earlier promise to beef up the health sector in the middle of an unprecedented health crisis.
“I really like the three or four items that people feel [should] be the future. That’s health care. I’m not so excited about infrastructure because we spent too much money over the past two administrations,” Montinola said.
“I would invest a lot on the preventive side, on the health care. The math is there. If you are vaccinated, you will be safe. It’s the pandemic of the unvaccinated. [Almost] everybody in the hospital is unvaccinated. But we’ve not really been able to add much more health-care capacity, which was what we were told what was supposed to happen last year when we started the first lockdown,” he added.
But based on President Duterte’s 2022 budget message, the health sector will receive a budget of just P252.4 billion next year, not even close to the P1.18 trillion allotted for the infrastructure program. It had been the Duterte government’s priority from 2016, even with the country still struggling to find its way out of the twin public health and economic crises caused by COVID-19.
This was also the first time education made it to the top three priority sectors, according to Mary Jade Roxas-Divinagracia, Deals and Corporate Finance managing partner at PwC Philippines.
“For the first time in the CEO survey, education figured in the top 3. CEOs have expressed concerns that the two years of online learning will have long term repercussions on productivity and the economy. The ADB (Asian Development Bank) has estimated the students from the Philippines are at risk of lower earnings up to 155 dollars a year as a result of less effective online learning,” she said.
Close to four of five of the CEOs said they expect the Philippine economy needs over two years to recover. However, 76 percent of them said that the slow vaccine rollout will delay this recovery, on top of the political uncertainty in the 2022 elections (44 percent), the threats of new COVID-19 variants (34 percent), and the lack of fiscal support for the hardest hit industries (18 percent).
Also, 70 percent of the CEOs also said their average daily sales and profits decline by at least 10 percent each time their area is placed under a lockdown, the survey said.
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