MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines needs to “restart and accelerate” its “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure program and hire contact-tracers “en masse” to revive the economy after being waylaid by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a meeting with President Duterte and other Cabinet officials, a video of which was aired Tuesday morning, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez said the government needs to “do many things to revive the economy.”

Among them is to reboot the ambitious infrastructure program, which he said remains to be the “best driver of economic growth” as it has the best multiplier effects in terms of employment and shared prosperity.

“We should also hire contact tracers en masse to boost our efforts to stop transmission and defeat COVID 19 while providing jobs,” he said.

The head of Duterte’s economic team revealed that some 1.2 million to 1.5 million jobs were “temporarily lost” due to the health crisis.

“If we hire these guys to do contact tracing, which we are having a very hard time right? Doing the contact tracing. I think we can provide good jobs to people,” he explained.

Dominguez also pushed for the passage of the CITIRA, or package two of the Comprehensive Tax Reform Program which Duterte has certified as urgent last March.

“The bill has been with the Senate for a few months. We would like to ask for your support so that Congress can pass this before June 3,” he said.

The government should likewise stimulate consumer demand by promoting the manufacturing of products that have strong and inelastic demand.

Last week, the government reported a 0.2-percent contraction in first-quarter gross domestic product.  This is the first time in 22 years that the GDP shrank.


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