The relaxed COVID-19 restrictions last year allowed the economy to breathe freely and regained its strength. The gross domestic product expanded 7.7 percent in the last quarter of 2021 to bring the full-year growth to 5.6 percent. The expansion was a complete reversal from a 9.6-percent contraction in 2020, when the pandemic virtually shut down the entire economy.
Economic managers credited the government’s recalibrated strategies in the fourth quarter in containing COVID-19 for the economic turnaround. From a widespread containment, or the enhanced community quarantine, the government resorted to an alert level system that featured neighborhood or granular lockdowns. The recalibrated response enabled the economy to reopen, and allowed more Filipinos to work and earn their income.
Regional lockdowns in the past failed to curb the infection rate. The economy shrank as many business establishments were either forced to shutter their operations completely, or operate on a skeleton force due to mobility restrictions. The ranks of the unemployed rose as a result.
The looser restrictions in the fourth quarter, however, reopened the economy as more Filipinos trooped to the malls, fast-food and other dining establishments—and traveled to the provinces. The unemployment rate in November consequently declined to 6.5 percent, the lowest since the start of the pandemic, translating into a net employment creation of 2.9 million.
Much of the economy’s recovery, though, will depend on the vaccination program. A healthier population with vaccine protection will spur the economy to grow faster. The expansion of the inoculation plan to include children ages 5 to 11 will lead to the safe and full reopening of the economy and, as our economic managers believe, allow more Filipinos to work and earn a living, and restart all face-to-face learning.
The economy is still facing many challenges before it can reach the pre-pandemic growth levels. But relaxing mobility restrictions further along with a stepped-up vaccination program to keep COVID-19 at bay can hasten the recovery process.