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Taking stock of 2021

/ 04:02 AM December 28, 2021

How time flies! Three more days and 2021 will be history.

Compared to last year’s, this month may be considered “favorable” in terms of business activity as the government has eased restrictions on the operation of commercial establishments.

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Most shopping centers in Metro Manila and other parts of the country are experiencing heavy pedestrian traffic. It is as if the pandemic is over and the rules on social distancing no longer apply.

There is little that the public and private personnel tasked with enforcing that health protocol can do to make the public comply with it other than make announcements that are often ignored.

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The crowds indicate that no matter how hard times may be, the majority of Filipinos would go out of their way, literally and figuratively, to make the most of the holiday season. COVID-19 and inflation be damned!

Taking a leaf from similar events in the past, some health experts have expressed concern that this level of close contact may result in a spike in COVID-19 cases after the holiday season and negate the gains in the positivity rate of infection.

We can only keep our fingers crossed that this apprehension will not materialize.

Although there is reason to be happy about the increase in economic activity, the employment figures leave much to be desired.

As of October, some 4.25 million Filipinos of working age (15 years old and above) are unemployed, which is equivalent to 7.4-percent unemployment rate.

According to the Department of Labor and Employment, of those presently employed, (lucky them!) approximately 7 million are underemployed, or are looking for additional work or longer work, to augment their income.

This class of employees includes those who, by force of necessity, accept work positions below their level of education, training or expertise that under normal circumstances they would not agree to.

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And why not?

A professionally less challenging job that can help defray personal or family expenses is better than nothing. With the way economy is going, waiting for the preferred work position to become available may take months, if at all.The incoming box of the country’s headhunters (or recruiters for managerial positions) must be overflowing with applications and curriculum vitae of displaced corporate executives.

When most of us probably thought the worse was over with COVID-19 and the economy is on its way to recovery, Typhoon “Odette” came to wreak havoc on several provinces in the Visayas and Mindanao.

Although Odette was not considered on the same level as Super Typhoon “Yolanda” that hit the Philippines in 2013, it packed wind and rain that almost had the same effect.

To date, many of those places are still without electricity, potable water supply and telecommunications facilities.

Under these circumstances, the government is scrounging for funds (at least P10 billion as of last report) to help badly hit provinces repair their damaged infrastructure and bring back normalcy to the lives of their residents.

Those funds, whether sourced from the national budget or from international financing institutions, represent money that could otherwise be used for projects with substantial economic value.

Going through the borrowing route would further increase the already huge public debt which, as of the last quarter, has already reached P11.9 trillion, or at the exchange rate of P50 to $1, equivalent to $237,930,667,003.

So what lies ahead for the country amid these problems?

The answer may be found in the results of the survey conducted in October by Social Weather Station about the quality of life in the Philippines in the coming days, namely, 45 percent say it will be the same, 33 percent say it will improve in the next 12 months, 7 percent say it will worsen and 14 percent did not respond.

Goodbye, 2021. Good riddance. INQFor comments, please send your email to [email protected]

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