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Growth targets will be missed in 2021 unless lockdowns are eased

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REUTERS

THE GOVERNMENT is unlikely to hit its growth targets this year unless lockdowns brought by a global coronavirus pandemic are eased further, according to the country’s acting Socioeconomic Planning chief.

Policymakers had been unable to balance the health risks and the impact of strict quarantines on economic output because they were risk-averse, Acting Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick T. Chua told an online news briefing on Monday.

“We have to care for both COVID-19 patients and the people who have other sickness or health or hunger problems,” he said.

“These two are important. Unfortunately, we were not able to balance these well because before, we were risk-averse because we didn’t know. But now we know better, so we will have to live with the virus and balance that better,” he added.

Mr. Chua said he expects Metro Manila and other provinces to shift to a modified general community quarantine next month. “The good news is we have lived with this virus already. After this month, we should be in a better position to relax further.”

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He said President Rodrigo R. Duterte would probably make an informed decision on the lockdowns once he sees both the latest health and economic data. He added that age restrictions during the lockdown should be eased “anytime soon.”

“We have been under a general community quarantine or higher in the Metro Manila area for 12 months already, so to the extent that we can continue with it, it’s really going to put our economy in a very difficult position,” Mr. Chua said.

The economy fell into its worst recession since World War II last year as output contracted by 9.5%. This year, the government expects the economy to grow by 6.5% to 7.5%.

Mr. Chua said the rollout of coronavirus vaccines this year would probably boost consumer and business confidence. “The mere announcement and the mere fact that we have a plan is also building a lot of confidence.”

President Rodrigo R. Duterte last month recalled a decision by an inter-agency taskforce (IATF) to let minors as young as 10 years to go out and visit malls, citing the risk from a new coronavirus strain first detected in the United Kingdom. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza

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