Independent think tank bats for stricter quarantine, aggressive fiscal policy


Posted at Mar 23 2021 03:47 PM

Independent think tank bats for stricter quarantine, aggressive fiscal policy 1
Members of the Philippine National Police inspect passing motorists at a checkpoint along the Batasan-San Mateo Bridge bordering Quezon City and San Mateo, Rizal on March 22, 2021. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News/File

MANILA - An independent think tank urged the government to implement stricter quarantines and centralized contact tracing, as well as provide social amelioration after its efforts "failed" to safeguard people's health. 

Action for Economic Reforms (AER) said an "aggressive fiscal policy" is also needed to finance efforts in flattening the curve.

AER said the government's move to open up the economy without adequate safeguards led to the current surge in COVID-19 infections. 

“The loosening of quarantine restrictions and opening of the economy failed because the government has not put in place the minimum necessary measures to safeguard people’s health and well-being,” AER Coordinator Filomeno Sta. Ana III said in a statement.

He added that the primary objective of the government should have been to protect health. 

“Health constrains further economic reopening. Lessons abroad show that it is countries that have contained the virus that have been able to facilitate economic recovery,” he added.

AER also supported calls to raise government spending, even if this means borrowing more. 

"Given the structural reforms already in place, we have the capacity to repay the heavy borrowing,” Sta. Ana said.

The Philippines earlier eased restrictions, raised capacities for transport and reopened the economy to allow businesses to bounce back and workers to earn more. 

However, confirmed COVID-19 cases continued to rise, reaching record-high numbers in the last 3 days. 

In response, the government placed Metro Manila, Cavite, Laguna, Bulacan and Rizal, known as NCR Plus, under general community quarantine with additional restrictions. 

The Philippine economy contract by 9.5 percent in 2020, its worst since the end of World War 2. 

Acting Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick Chua has repeatedly said that the government is performing a balancing act, containing COVID-19 while allowing Filipinos to keep their jobs.

Chua said localized lockdowns could help curb the spread of the virus while keeping the economy open. 

Economic managers have earlier predicted that easing restrictions could result in positive growth in the second quarter. However, that was before COVID-19 cases started reaching over 7,000 per day in the last few days. 


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