College of Science, University of the Philippines Baguio, University of the Philippines Diliman, former Secretary of Socioeconomic Planning
"Health is economy” signifies that both health and economy are equally vital, the difference being only in the timing of intervention, and can be mutually reinforcing, or otherwise. Both should be addressed jointly and in a timely manner. The Philippines has not done well in this regard, resulting in the highest level of COVID-19 infections relative to population in this part of Asia and in an economy the slowest to recover from a deep recession. This can be explained by its COVID-response spending, the lowest among members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), to deal with the public-health-cum-economic crisis. This points to a lack of a sense of urgency or virtuous impatience underlying delayed policies and projects that could have made a significant difference in socioeconomic growth. Delays represent missed opportunities that cumulate over time to huge opportunity costs or forgone benefits. A further lesson from the pandemic is the private-sector-cum-civil-society’s magnanimity that shone through, exemplifying the bayanihan spirit during the COVID outbreak, showing that public-private partnership could be made even more effective with better methodical coordination. This applies as well to public-private partnership projects (PPPs) that have considerable promise but whose performance to date leaves much room for improvement in terms of processing and implementation. PPPs ought to be deliberately mobilized as they can ease the heavy demands on government’s fiscal capacity and greatly help move forward our country’s long-run inclusive development.