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Bacolod City, Philippines Thursday, September 10, 2020
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Leadership vacuum

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New York-based think tank Global Source has further downgraded its gross domestic product outlook for the Philippines this year to a steeper 8.5 percent drop from the original 7 percent contraction and furthermore expects a slower recovery next year as the country grapples with rising infections and continuing constraints in public transport alongside fiscal conservatism and weak public health institutions and leadership.

“In its fight against COVID-19, the Philippines is handicapped by weak public health institutions and what appears to be a leadership vacuum. In the same way that the President has been able to delegate management of the economy to his able economic managers headed by the Finance Secretary, perhaps the President ought now to find an equally competent alter ego to manage the health crisis,” said a September 1 research authored by Filipino economists Romeo Bernardo and Marie Christine Tang.

Global Source’s GDP forecasts for this year and the next are more bearish than market consensus. It also found the government’s wish of a V-shaped recovery – or a strong recovery after a steep decline – in 2021 unachievable due to shocks to demand and supply alongside massive unemployment, business disruptions and regulatory and political uncertainties.

It expressed concern over the government’s handling of the health crisis which exposed long standing institutional flaws.

The think tank noted the decision to go back to tighter restrictions in early August when Metro Manila and other provinces were placed anew under modified enhanced community quarantine from August 4 to 18. It raised the question of whether or not recently adopted disease management protocols and new spending would ensure that future lockdowns would already be localized rather than region-wide or national.

It also noted that joblessness and the workforce’s move to the informal sectors, where income and productivity are lower, would weigh on short to medium term demand recovery.

This would be the worst time for a country to suffer from a leadership vacuum but unfortunately for the Philippines, it doesn’t need experts in a think tank to recognize the severity of that particular problem that has far-reaching implications. The poor performance and faulty leadership that has been tolerated for too long will continue to drag us down until those who are in the position to do something about it finally act with dispatch.

Until then, we can only hope that the resiliency of the Filipino is enough to see us through this pandemic that has already been successfully containedby nations blessed with better leaders.*


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