BSP says 'too early to tell' if lockdown impacts business sentiment

Bruce Rodriguez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 08 2021 08:11 PM | Updated as of Apr 09 2021 10:39 AM

MANILA - The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas said Thursday it's still too early to tell whether the reimposed lockdown over Metro Manila and nearby provinces will drag down sentiment.

The central bank noted that businessmen grew more upbeat over their prospects in the next 12 months, based on its Business Expectation Survey (BES) for the first quarter of 2021.

Based on the latest BES conducted between February and March this year, the confidence index of businessmen rose to 60.5 percent from 57.7 percent in the fourth quarter 2020 survey round.

The study attributed this to the easing of quarantine measures and the reopening of business establishments, steps done to adapt to the "new normal," increase in sales, the rollout of vaccines for COVID-19, and the development of new business or marketing strategies.

The survey, however, was conducted before the government reimposed enhanced community quarantine over Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna and Rizal. 

The BSP however also said the second ECQ is "quite different from what we've seen." 

"In the initial stage of the pandemic last year, and so far, what we have experienced was just two weeks of ECQ," said BSP Deputy Governor Francisco Dakila, Jr. 

"So, it depends on the extent where restrictions are imposed and it also depends on the direction," Dakila added.

BSP Senior Director Redentor Paolo Alegre, admitted, "with the lockdown, there can be an impact on the business sentiment in the second quarter."

Business owners surveyed, however, said they are now more prepared to face the quarantine restrictions.

"The respondents are developing strategies to adapt to the new normal, so it plays in with the expectation that this lockdown will not be as extreme as before," Alegre explained.

Acting Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Chua earlier said he expected the economy to bounce back in the second quarter as the economy opened up. 

But this was also before surging COVID-19 cases forced the government to reimpose the strictest of quarantine levels on "NCR Plus" which is the country's most economically productive region.