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Philippines’ Covid-19 war chest hits $21B

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A train passenger has her body temperature taken before boarding a bus at a train station in Manila on 7 July, 2020. AFP

Philippines’ Covid-19 war chest hits $21B

The Philippines’ war chest against the Covid-19 crisis inched up to $21.05 billion as of mid-July, although still lower than most of its Southeast Asian neighbours when divided among the relatively bigger population.

Japan-led Manila-based multilateral lender Asian Development Bank’s (ADB’s) Covid-19 policy database compiled by its economic research and regional cooperation department showed that the country’s Covid-19 package as of July 13 further rose from $20.1 billion last month, $19.8 billion in May and $16.5 billion in April.

The authors of the ADB database led by Jesus Felipe included the sum of the measures that provided liquidity, encouraged credit creation in financial sectors and directly funded households, businesses and local governments reeling from the pandemic.

To date, liquidity support provided by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) – the central bank – reached 264.7 billion pesos ($5.4 billion).

Loan guarantees made available to badly hit small businesses amounted to 120 billion pesos, while long-term direct lending to businesses, farmers, fishers, schools and local governments contributed 18.5 billion.

Also part of the Philippines’ economic war chest against Covid-19 were 58.6 billion pesos in support to the health-care sector and front-liners as well as 464.4 billion pesos in non-health dole-outs to vulnerable sectors such as poor families, displaced Filipino workers here and abroad, rice farmers, taxpayers, tourism industry players and micro, small and medium enterprises, among others.

To avoid double-counting, the sum of the key economic measures against the Covid-19 pandemic did not include the 266.2 billion pesos in budget funds reallocated into Covid-19 response, central bank financing support for the national government worth 382 billion and the 206.9 billion in loans and grants secured from multilateral lenders such as the ADB, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), and the World Bank as well as aid agencies of bilateral partners such as Canada, the EU, Japan and the US.

The ADB database also noted other uncategorised economic measures such as the 145 billion peso fiscal stimulus package under the proposed “Bayanihan 2” pending in Congress.

The Philippines’ measures to fight Covid-19 were equivalent to 5.72 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP).

If divided among the population, the package per capita was $197.33 for every Filipino.

The sum of the Philippine government’s Covid-19 policies was the sixth biggest in Southeast Asia, after Singapore’s $92.1 billion, Thailand’s $84.1 billion, Malaysia’s $78.4 billion, Indonesia’s $63.4 billion and Vietnam’s $26.5 billion, while surpassing Cambodia’s $2.2 billion, Brunei’s $318 million, East Timor’s $254 million, Myanmar’s $99 million and Laos’ $8 million.

On a per-capita basis, seven Southeast Asian countries had larger Covid-19 response than the Philippines – Singapore had the biggest at $16,331.80 per person; Malaysia, $2,488.18; Thailand, $1,211.20; Brunei, $741.61; Vietnam, $277.40; Indonesia $237.02, and East Timor, $200.32.

The Philippines’ Covid-19 economic response per capita exceeded those of Cambodia ($136), Myanmar ($1.84) and Laos ($1.11).

As a share of GDP, Brunei’s Covid-19 package was equivalent to 2.7 per cent; Cambodia, 8.3 per cent; Indonesia, six per cent; Laos, 0.04 per cent; Malaysia, 22.1 per cent; Myanmar, 0.13 per cent; Singapore, 26.2 per cent; Thailand, 15.9 per cent; East Timor, 8.7 per cent, and Vietnam, 10.1 per cent.

PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

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