NEDA lowers PH growth forecast amid coronavirus outbreak

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The National Economic and Development Authority says it sees even slower economic growth for 2020 due to the novel coronavirus outbreak, trimming the forecast to just 5.5-6.5 percent.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 9) — The National Economic and Development Authority said it expects even slower economic growth for 2020 due to the novel coronavirus outbreak.

NEDA Undersecretary Rosemarie Edillon told the Senate Committee on Economic Affairs that the economic agency has tempered growth expectations this year, as the outbreak dampens local and global trade.

"Kung ang scenario natin dati is ang target natin is 6.5-7.5 percent, we are looking at 5.5-6.5 percent for the year," Edillon said in a hearing on Tuesday. In 2019, the economy grew by 5.9 percent, also missing the target. 

She said the projections factor in the coronavirus concerns lasting until June, which would slash overall growth by 0.5-1 percent.

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Last month, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said that "unexpected" challenges like COVID-19 and the African swine fever were not "significant enough" for economic managers to slash growth targets for 2020. The economic team is set to meet on Tuesday to discuss latest developments.

NEDA also said they expect 30,000 to 50,000 job losses as tourist arrivals drop by 1.4 million this year. This is softer than the estimates drawn up by the Asian Development Bank, which peg job losses at 87,000 under the best-case scenario and as much as 252,000 unemployed Filipinos should the coronavirus outbreak escalate further.

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Senator Imee Marcos questioned NEDA's figures, saying these were "very conservative." She said growth could settle at 5.9 percent, citing reduced estimates by global banks and economic research firms.

READ: The travel industry is suffering its worst shock since 9/11 because of coronavirus

To soften the impact of the outbreak, Edillon said among NEDA's recommendations is for companies to implement telecommuting or work-from-home arrangements, as well as shorter work hours and forced leaves to contain the spread of the virus.

"We can take advatange of the lull to build infrastructure," Edillon added. She said more health facilities can also be constructed as the situation develops.