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How Much Spending Was Lost to Quarantines? Think iPhone 12, K-BBQ

The recession is the worst since the end of World War II.
by Joel Guinto
Jan 28, 2021

(UPDATE) By how much did COVID-19 quarantines damage the Philippine economy? Consumers held back from spending the equivalent of 1.6 billion unlimited samgyupsal meals for one.

Household spending in 2020 fell by P801 billion, that's 1.6 billion Korean barbecue meals at P500 per meal. On a per-day basis, it fell to P2.2 billion or 4.4 million meals, based on fourth quarter and full-year GDP data released Thursday.

The fall in spending resulted in income loss of P1.04 trillion last year or an average of P2.8 billion per day, according to a joint statement from President Rodrigo Duterte's economic managers.

Further perspective: the P801 billion in lost household spending is equivalent to 267 million grocery runs at P3,000 per cart, 5.3 billion milk tea cups at P150 per serving, or 12.7 million iPhones at P62,999 for the base 12 Pro model.


How Much are the Philippines' Billionaires Worth in Samgyupsal Currency? 

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Here's the big picture

The economy, as measured by gross domestic product, shrank by 8.3% in the quarter ended December (compared to the same period in 2019), bringing the full-year contraction in GDP to 9.5%, according to official data. The full-year number is at the low end of the government's projection of an 8.5-9.5% contraction.

Compared to the third quarter, GDP grew by 5.6%. President Rodrigo Duterte's economic managers said this was a sign that things would get better in 2021.

"This improvement was the result of the further reopening of businesses and wider accessibility of public transport since October 2020. However, it also shows the limits of economic recovery without any major relaxation of our quarantine policy," they said in a joint statement.

Here's what to expect

Two things will dictate the pace of recovery in 2021, how fast the vaccine program will be rolled out and the speed of the unwinding of quarantine restrictions, economic managers said.

Continue reading below ↓
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Government is betting on starting the vaccination program as early as the first quarter of the year so that urban centers, including Metro Manila could graduate to MGCQ or the lowest form of restrictions.

There are also "green shoots of recovery," according to the economic managers. The contraction in investments slowed to 29% in the fourth quarter from 41.6% in the third quarter.

Public and private consumption also improved. Last December, the Skyway Stage 3 opened, which will cut travel time from north to south of the capital to roughly 30 minutes, from several hours if motorists use EDSA.


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Safeguards will be put in place as the economy is reopened further. This means higher capacity on public transport, gradual resumption of face-to-face classes, and widening the age bracket of those allowed to go out, the economic managers said.

Continue reading below ↓

"All of these efforts to contain the coronavirus and revive the economy will allow us to prevent long-term economic scarring and productivity losses and recover to the pre-pandemic level by mid-2022," it said.

It's the worst perfromance since WWII ended

Gross domestic product shrank for four straight quarters in 2020. The full-year figure was the worst since records began in 1946 and ended more than two decades of annual growth.

Accommodation and food services were among the sectors hardest hit by lockdowns and other measures that left millions jobless.

A series of typhoons and a volcanic eruption in the natural disaster-prone country also destroyed cash crops. 

Socioeconomic Planning Sec. Karl Kendrick Chua warned a more robust recovery was being hampered by stay-at-home orders for children, which were preventing families visiting shopping malls -- the centers of community life and consumer spending in the Philippines

Earlier this week President Rodrigo Duterte overturned a decision by his coronavirus task force to lift the restriction on children aged 10 to 14. 

Continue reading below ↓

"Economic growth will be hard pressed to make a stronger recovery if children and families are restricted from participating in the economy as up to 50% of non-essential retail sales are driven by family spending," Chua said.

Once those and other measures were further relaxed, "we see no reason why the economy cannot bounce back", he added.  

Last year "will be remembered as the most difficult year in our lives", Chua said.

"The road ahead remains challenging but there is now light at the end of the tunnel."

-- with a report from Mikhail Flores, Agence France-Presse

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