OUR country is experiencing a major halt in its economic industries because of the drastic, but necessary and valid measures imposed by both the local and national governments to contain the public health emergency of the new coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19). Our local economy is unfortunately not spared and will take the brunt of lost markets -- from tourism and transportation, to our agriculture and trading industry.
As the designated office for economic and investments concerns in the Benguet capital, our office has the specific responsibility of "conducting studies, gathering and analyzing relevant data, and informing the Board of both national and international events and issues that may create either positive or negative effects on the municipality's economic well-being..." (LLIC Code/ Ord. No. 9-2017, Sec. 12). Hence, our following projections:
a) La Trinidad's economic dynamism (No.7 last year in the country) will fall, just like many LGUs, as the abrupt suspension of economic activities brought by the community quarantines, event cancellations, and social distancing would contribute to a downward financial-market chaos. Even international economists project an inevitable global recession.
b) Specifically, the halt in over thousands of local businesses and livelihoods in tourism / tourism-related areas, and the disruption of some activities of our agricultural industry, which have been contributing in the vibrancy of the local economy through consumer-spending, will produce sharp ripples that will affect other businesses in the locality.
c) This phenomena boldly interpreted as a local recession (general decline in economic activity), will likely produce other major problems: Criminality / peace and order challenges, and threats on health and social protection. Research shows that the decline of economic activity contributes to the disturbing and substantial impact on the formation of criminal tendencies (Bell et al. 2015). Also, as may be learned from the economic crisis of Brazil in 2014-2016, its recession period increased the mortality among children, mainly because of the lack of livelihood and income, and the resulting lack of education among the poor.
Since our local businesses and industries will be substantially affected by the economic crisis brought by the public health emergency imposed measures, our office has come up with the following recommendations that will hopefully give a certain cushion to the impending impact to the lives and livelihood of our people:
a) As an immediate response, our local government should coordinate and convince/encourage public utility companies/ institutions in our locality (Beneco, LTWD, phone/cable companies, etc.) to suspend its due dates/deadlines for bills payment, especially for low to middle-income earners. This will provide a respite from the economic stress brought by business inactivity, since bills are running despite the suspension of business operations. The community, especially the landlords/lessors, can also contribute by also suspending the rentals or giving discounts to the affected businesses and residents.
b) Study a possible local tax holiday commensurate to the crisis/downtime period, especially to those businesses specifically directed to suspend their operations. This measure is both fair and just and will ease the frustrations and growing fears of the business community.
c) Encourage LGU implementers to patronize products of those affected by the measures, and to utilize their program funds in consideration of affected local businesses (e.g. purchase of strawberries from local farmers as snacks during meetings/other allowed activities). Support/promote "online shopping" and deliveries of local products to local consumers to fill-up the void vacated by tourist spending.
d) Prepare programs and projects required for the eventual resumption of business and tourism activities, to facilitate swifter business recoveries.
e) A body shall be established which will be tasked to come up with a "Local Economic Recovery Plan" intended not only to restore consumer and business confidence but for aggressive business promotion campaigns and investment stimulation after the health crisis is over.
As fears and frustrations loom in these volatile times, this global phenomenon which is our generation's world war can only be overcome when we cooperate with the authorities, and at the same time be emphatic and humane to the conditions of our brothers and sisters. Just like any challenge, we pray that this too shall pass and that we will soon rise to our feet sooner than later.
Be safe kakadwa!