It has been more than a year since the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic broke out in 2020. The unprecedented health catastrophe took millions of lives as infection continues to ravage people around the world disrupting normal lives and wreaking economies.
As a developing country, the Philippines is one of the hardest hit in terms of human casualties and its economy brought into a slump, Metro Bacolod Chamber of Commerce Industry (MBCCI) executive officer Frank Carbon said.
Getting the brunt of the global economic scourge are four critical industries that are barely surviving due to COVID-19 onslaught, he revealed. These are food and agri-business industry, utility sectors, pharmaceuticals, and education.
"In Negros Occidental, workers either lost their jobs or had to go on work rotation resulting in little money circulation that also weakened its buying power,” he said.
According to Carbon, half of a family's income goes to food, normally for three full meals a day and two snacks. "Some families may only be eating twice a day while better-off ones skip the snacks," he said, adding that a person can last for two weeks consuming water; without food, a person’s health crumbles.
"From now on, the food delivery service stays even after the pandemic is through. That is for the 30% moneyed class while the rest of the 70% population will do the usual ‘market walk’," he said.
Utilities such as services for water, energy, transportation, telecommunications and internet also suffered. He said critical to the work-from-home scheme is the need for stable internet connection, now more than ever.
Due to the crisis, however, the government allowed monthly bills to be paid much later resulting in a drop in revenues.They also have to cut the number of employees - a double whammy, Carbon noted.
As there are fewer workers and classes suspended already more than a year, fewer use the public utility vehicles. This further puts pressure on the livelihood of the thousands of drivers in the province of Negros Occidental and the entire country, he said.
For the pharmaceuticals, the bulk of the medicines people buy are maintenance pills for hypertension, diabetes, arthritis and the likes. Cash shortage drove folks to try alternative medicines and would rather delay or hold-off seeing physicians to save,Carbon noted.
In education, foreboding consequences due to prohibitions under pandemic situations, he said, adding that it is not yet known how many youngsters dropped out of school; eventual results could be child labor and even worse - prostitution.
One of the solutions he recommends is for the government to continue injecting more money in circulation through loans to the business community. He explained that as business expands, more workers will be hired.
Employment means salary in the pockets of the masses allowing them to buy their needs that move the economy in the right direction.
"In these difficult times, we look up to the government because it is the only entity that has the capacity to borrow money to pump-prime the economy. And when better time comes, the state should invest massively in food and agri-business industry; utility sectors; pharmaceuticals and health and education to hasten the country's growth," he said. (JSC/Lljr/PIA6 Negros Occidental)