Coronavirus stimulus: Philippines to do 'what it takes,' including larger deficit

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 26 2020 10:08 AM | Updated as of Mar 26 2020 11:30 AM

A street sweeper tends to potted flowers on a flyover in Manila, with the capital region on lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic. Photo taken on March 25, 2020. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News/file

MANILA -- President Rodrigo Duterte's economic managers will do "what it takes" to rescue the economy from the coronavirus pandemic, including borrowing more than programmed, a finance official said Thursday.

The budget deficit could exceed 3.6 percent of gross domestic product. Manila is also in talks with the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank to make available up to $2 billion in financing, Finance Assistant Secretary Tony Lambino said.

"We're gonna do what it takes, that's what the economic managers have said, to get out of this crisis and help Filipino families get through it," Lambino told ANC.

"We do know like many countries around the world, we will spend more than what is initially expected," he said.

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Revenues will "dip significantly" due to the pandemic, Lambino said. The Bureau of Internal Revenue pushed back by 1 months its April 15 deadline for income tax filings, with the Luzon-wide lockdown set to end on April 12.

SIZEABLE SPENDING

The Philippines needs a "sizable" supplementary budget to rescue the economy from the coronavirus pandemic, which will exact a "heavy toll" on Southeast Asian economies, Nomura chief economist for ASEAN Euben Paracuelles said.

Restrictions on public movements will cause a "significant economic disruption" and "public fear factor will crimp spending over-all," he said.

Before the lockdown was expanded to the entire Luzon from Metro Manila, Paracuelles said he downgraded his 2020 economic growth forecast for the Philippines to 5.6 percent from 6 percent.

"What's still needed is a sizable supplementary budget that needs to be passed and passed quite urgently. That's the missing link at this point," Paracuelles told ANC.

President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday signed a law granting him special powers, including reallocating billions of pesos in the current P4.1 trillion budget to equip the Department of Health and give 2 months of cash subsidies to 18 million families.

Aside from realigned budget items, the government will also draw from unused allocations and funds from government corporations, said Lambino. The government can spend up to P200 billion in stimulus, he said.

The P27.1-billion COVID-19 package announced before the Luzon lockdown will be included in the P200 billion package, he said.