Ateneo economists bat for 'social protection' to dampen COVID-19 impact

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 23 2020 10:48 PM

MANILA - Economists from the Ateneo de Manila University (AdMU) on Monday called for a package of economic measures to dampen the socio-economic impact of the COVID-19 outbreak. 

The Ateneo Center for Economic Research and Development and the faculty of the Economic Department said the lockdown imposed over Luzon and other parts of the country threatens to throw the Philippines into a recession this year. 

They said the government should, for now, set aside its economic growth targets and focus on ensuring adequate health services, medical supplies and protection of health workers; provide social protection to the people; and, address the economic and social costs of the enhanced community quarantine. 

Among their recommendations is doubling the unconditional cash transfers from P36.5 billion to P73 billion to provide income support to those not covered by the 4Ps or the Pantawid ng Pamilyang Pilipino Program.

The group also said the government should consider short-term rationing of food to guarantee the availability of supply for everyone. 

The economists also called for moving the filing of income tax returns to July 31 this year, and waiving penalties. 

Firms that continue to pay staff even during business closure should also be given tax credits, they said. 

Due dates of consumer loans should also be extended without penalties to July 31, the economists said. 

The government should also assume utilities payments up to P500 per month per household from March to June.

Small and medium-scale enterprises meanwhile should get debt relief, the Ateneo economists said. 

Fitch Solutions on Monday lowered its growth forecast for the Philippines to 4 percent this year from its initial outlook of 6 percent citing the effects of COVID-19.