Businesses should prepare for tougher times as the government prioritizes feeding the poor while consumers—the main pillar of the Philippine economy—hold back on spending amid the new coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, ports and gaming tycoon Enrique Razon Jr. warned.
“The concerns of businesses are secondary at this point,” Razon said in an interview with Bloomberg TV.
“More important are the concerns of the people. Feeding the people,” he added.
The group’s Bloomberry Resorts Corp., which operates the Solaire Resort & Casino along Manila Bay, had closed gaming operations since the Luzon lockdown began last month.
Razon’s International Container Terminal Services Inc., which runs 31 facilities across 18 countries, saw volume fall 15-20 percent in March.
“The worst is probably still to come,” Razon said, adding that their operations in Latin America were the hardest hit globally.
The billionaire said he supported the government’s decision to extend the enhanced community quarantine in Luzon by two weeks until April 30.
“The only thing that counts now is defeating the virus,” he said, while emphasizing the need for essential goods to keep flowing. “This is a war with an unseen enemy and we will have to tally up the losses later on.”
Bloomberry donated P60 million in personal protective equipment to medical front-liners last month.
Razon is also renovating a portion of the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex into a COVID-19 emergency facility.
Meanwhile, Razon said the eventual lifting of the lockdown was “going to be very tricky”.
“There has to be a plan. It’s not from one day to the next,” Razon said. “I think a lot of people are underestimating what this is really going to take.”
Economic recovery could also take time as he expects consumer spending to remain depressed as households conserve money.
“People are profoundly impacted by the virus and the lockdown,” Razon said. “I think people will come out of this and the savings rate is going to dramatically increase so I don’t think consumer spending will recover that quickly.”
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