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'We Can't Afford a Second Lockdown': Suggestions on How to Revive The Economy

From Joey Concepcion, the founder of GoNegosyo.
IMAGE PIXABAY
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The immediate concern for many of our countrymen these days is containment of the virus and nursing the sick back to health. However, the state of the economy is of primary concern, too.

As we are now on our third week of the enhanced community quarantine, most businesses apart from essential services remain closed in Metro Manila and the rest of Luzon. For small and medium enterprises, that means an even more difficult struggle to pay employee salaries, pay rent and other bills, and to generally survive this difficult time.

Based on current figures, SMEs account for over 99 percent of businesses in the Philippines. So it’s important to keep these businesses afloat even as we all struggle to manage the horrific consequences brought about by COVID-19.

Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship and founder of GoNegosyo Joey Concepcion has a few suggestions on how to revive the economy:

My thoughts on how to revive the economy, while staying guarded against the virus. 

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According to the DOH, it takes two weeks to determine if one has contracted COVID-19, even without a test, as symptoms usually develop over these days.

With the lockdown, we are given four weeks to observe the pandemic and to minimize its spread. The government as well as the public sector has launched numerous initiatives to help inform the public of proper protocol and how to conduct themselves during the enhanced community quarantine.

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Assuming on the 13th day that someone still breaks the protocols and infects somebody, we will be able to catch the new cases and take them into (account). So even without testing in one household during the four weeks, if people safely isolate themselves and not spread the virus, we can achieve a successful “reset.”

The number of cases maybe still be high by the end of the fourth week. But with a proper reset done, we can be confident that this number will go down.

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In my opinion, the general lockdown in Luzon should be lifted, but barangays can still continue their quarantine. To provide clarity, the IATF should come out with clear rules on how the lockdown on the barangay level can be continued.

1| To jumpstart the economy again, all manufacturing should resume operations, and we should allow the free movement of all vehicles for all types of cargo. If there is no demand for products, and if there is restricted movement of trucks for deliveries and supplies, manufacturers will be discouraged to assume operations. Likewise, all agribusiness should immediately get back on track. Cargo must move freely without the need for truck passes.

2| For offices in other general industries, we should continue operating with a skeleton crew. Let us push for online meetings as we have done during this lockdown. To ensure that the public stays home, public transportation should continue to be suspended.

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3| All venues for gathering should also continue to be closed. Shopping centers and mall operations should remain suspended for another two weeks to a month. I am sure many people will still not want to head out due to lingering fears.

We have all witnessed something traumatic, so it is understandable that even our factory workers are scared to go to work. To better gauge the sentiments, I recommend that mall owners conduct a survey to see whether tenants are prepared to reopen, and if not, when will they be most confident to do so.

4| The last step to help revive the economy is to rebuild public confidence, reassuring all Filipinos that once the lockdown has been lifted, it is safe to go out, ride public transportation, go to the malls, or even visit their family and friends.

I had asked my children if they would go out once the lockdown is over, and they all said no. So how do we restore confidence? We need to test everybody. Sec. Duque said the additional testing centers will help in this regard. But will these be operational by the time the lockdown is lifted? Most likely not. Given this, I propose the gradual return to normalcy.

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With Sec. Galvez now leading the implementation, I strongly advise that they consider the rapid testing kits, procuring them, of course, from reliable suppliers and in accordance with the rules set by Sec. Galvez and Sec. Duque. These tests can be used as part of a screening process to see who can safely go back to work. To whom these tests will be given will be upon the recommendation of the Secretaries.

We need to immediately take the necessary steps to revive the economy as the continued lockdown will greatly affect the lives of millions of Filipinos. These are my thoughts and I am sure many of you have some, too. Hopefully this private-public sharing can help us prepare for the future transition well and avoid a second lockdown. Thank you to all our Cabinet Secretaries for your efforts and patience.

Photo by GoNegosyo Facebook page
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About The Author
Paul John Caña
Associate Editor, Esquire Philippines
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