MANILA – Political consultancy firm PUBLiCUS Asia, Inc. published over the weekend a four-phase “Freeze and Reboot” plan to address the pressing concerns of the Philippine economy under COVID-19, framing the unprecedented pandemic as a “unique opportunity” to address structural weaknesses in the economy and put the country on a path towards more inclusive prosperity moving forward.
The plan, titled ‘Freeze and Reboot: A Strategy for Economic Rebirth Amid COVID-19,’ proposes a multi-phase Freeze and Reboot (F&R) strategy to minimize the adverse economic consequences of COVID-19 and jump-start the economy again moving forward.
“Amid the understandable alarm and panic during the COVID-19 outbreak, however, lies a sui generis opportunity to dramatically restructure and reorient the Philippine economy. The current government can use the unique circumstances of this crisis to put the Philippine economy on a path toward greater resiliency, inclusivity, diversity, and competitiveness,” PUBLiCUS said in its paper.
“Through strategic interventions comprised of targeted social safety nets as well as bold macroeconomic policies, the Duterte administration can preserve and perhaps even improve the poverty reduction gains made over the past five years. In essence, the Philippine government must go beyond merely navigating through the current crisis and look towards the opportunities in its aftermath,” PUBLiCUS added.
The four phases of the F&R Plan are Freeze, Restructure, Reboot, and Rebound.
The paper describes the Freeze phase, which coincides with the second quarter of 2020, as “a sober recognition of the economic slowdown that is a natural consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic and the restrictive lockdowns it has necessitated.”
“Alternatively, we can consider the Freeze as putting the breaks on the economy to stop the hemorrhage and assess its impact,” PUBLiCUS said, arguing that “the primary focus of government in terms of economic policy during the Freeze will be to help families and small businesses weather the storm in the short-term.”
Meanwhile, the Restructure phase in Q3 2020 is centered around a proposed Industries Reform and Relief (IRR) package to restructure and reorient the economy.
“Through proper planning and calibration, the IRR package can be used to infuse critical industries with the needed capital (i.e. loans with generous repayment options) to survive and thrive in a post-COVID economy,” PUBLiCUS said.
Among others, the IRR will enhance food security through the strengthening of the agriculture sector, develop manufacturing value chains, encourage the growth of industrial corridors in presently underdeveloped regions, and reduce the perennial reliance of the economy on its services sector.
During the Reboot phase in Q4 2020, the government will be tapped to serve as “the enabler and mobilizer through demand-side interventions.” The paper argues that the 2021 GAA passed at the end of the year must “empower the government to use infrastructure spending under Build, Build, Build (BBB) as the linchpin of growth.”
The last phase, Rebound, “should see the economic on a clear pathway towards recovery by the first quarter of 2021,” according to PUBLiCUS.
The F&R strategy employs five synergized economic policy interventions to be implemented throughout its various phases: Bolster Aggregate Demand; Restructure the Public Transportation System and Telecommuting; Develop Framework for Big Data Interventions; Rehabilitate Weak Industries; and Expand Disaster Risk Portfolio. Specific action points for each policy interventions are outlined extensively in the paper.
Reference: Mr. Aureli C. Sinsuat, PUBLiCUS Executive Director