The Philippines’ war chest against COVID-19 inched up to $16.7 billion in May, but still lagged behind most of its Southeast Asian neighbors if spending was divided across the population, the latest data compiled by Asian Development Bank (ADB) economists showed.
The updated COVID-19 policy database of the ADB’s economic research and regional cooperation department showed that as of May 4, its developing member-countries had committed a total of $1.9 trillion to fight the pandemic, of which 11 Southeast Asian countries accounted for 13.4 percent.
In the case of the Philippines, the sum of the government’s COVID-19 policies and response to date slightly rose from $16.5 billion last April.
The Philippines had the sixth largest COVID-19 package in Southeast Asia, after Thailand’s $82.5 billion, Indonesia’s $57.9 billion, Singapore’s $45.1 billion, Malaysia’s $32.5 billion and Vietnam’s $26.2 billion, while exceeding Cambodia’s $2.1 billion, Brunei Darussalam’s $318.1 million, Timor-Leste’s $250 million, Myanmar’s $98.6 million and Laos’ $3.4 million.
However, if the sum was divided among the countries’ respective population, the Philippines’ COVID-19 economic response per capita of $156.39 only surpassed Cambodia’s $127.39, Myanmar’s $1.84, and Laos’ $0.48.
Seven Southeast Asian countries had bigger COVID-19 response per capita than the Philippines, with Singapore having the largest at $7990.93; Thailand, $1,188.77; Malaysia, $1,031.32; Brunei, $741.61; Vietnam, $274.02; Indonesia, $216.58; and Timor Leste, $197.17.
As a share of gross domestic product, the Philippines’ response was equivalent to 4.5 percent of GDP, compared with Brunei’s 2.7 percent, Cambodia’s 7.8 percent, Indonesia’s 5.5 percent, Laos’ 0.02 percent, Malaysia’s 9.2 percent, Myanmar’s 0.1 percent, Singapore’s 12.8 percent, Thailand’s 15.7 percent, Timor Leste’s 8.5 percent, and Vietnam’s 10 percent.
In a background document, the authors of the ADB database led by Jesus Felipe said they included the sum of the measures that provided liquidity, encouraged credit creation by the financial sector, and directly funded households, businesses, and/or state/local/regional governments amid the pandemic.
In the Philippines, actions to support normal functioning of money markets included non-lending actions by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) such as the cut in banks’ reserve requirement ratio (RRR), among other measures amounting P220 billion.
Loan guarantees being extended to small businesses amounted P120 billion.
Long-term direct lending to businesses, households, and state/local/regional governments contributed P14 billion in support.
Also part of the Philippines’ economic war chest vs. COVID-19 were P30.6 billion in direct financial support for the health sector and front-liners, on top of P464.4 billion in non-health dole outs for vulnerable sectors such as poor households and displaced workers, farmers, micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), and taxpayers, among others.
To avoid double-counting, the sum of key economic measures against the COVID-19 pandemic did not include the P300-billion bond repurchase agreement between the BSP and the Bureau of the Treasury, the BSP’s P62-billion expanded purchase of government securities, as well as the P87.7 billion in loans and grants secured from multilateral lenders such as the ADB and the World Bank to date.
The ADB database also took note of other uncategorized economic measures, such as financial assistance from the state-run Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) and the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) to buy medical equipment and supplies; as well as banks’ expected suspension of all fees and charges imposed on online banking platforms during the regulatory relief period.
Meanwhile, non-economic measures in the fight against COVID-19 included the government placing Luzon island under enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) since mid-March; suspension of flights from “high-risk” economies; school closures; and restrictions on mass gathering, the database noted.
Edited by TSB
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.