Ex-DSWD chief: Revive small businesses to help poor long after lockdown
MANILA, Philippines – With the future of the coronavirus pandemic uncertain, the government has scrape together funds to add to its war chest against the virus. The bulk of the P275 billion said to be available was aligned with the emergency subsidy program (ESP) that would cater to 18 million poor families.
The ESP is designed to give each of the families a subsidy of P5,000-P8,000 a month for April and May. But what happens after May? (READ: 'Sariling diskarte': The heavy impact of lockdown on micro, small businesses)
In a Rappler Talk interview on April 28, former social welfare secretary Dinky Soliman said one solution would be to revive micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) to restart economies in smaller communities.
In areas under enhanced community quarantine, only private establishments “providing basic necessities and such activities” are allowed to remain open during the quarantine period.
"We cannot forever be giving subsidies and food packs. The people have to be part of the engine of reviving economic transactions by equipping them with funds," said Soliman.
"We have to start thinking, planning, and working together – that's private sector, government, civil service organizations – in finding ways of doing economic transactions [in accordance with] social distancing and protocols on health. We make sure that we do not spread the contagion, but at the same time we have economic transactions that serve the interest of both the investor and the consumer," she added.
Soliman illustrated her proposal through a relief effort that she participated in with Bayanihan Musikahan, where they bought fresh produce directly from farmers through cooperatives. She said the beneficiaries were surprised to have received vegetables and fresh fish instead of canned goods.
MSMEs in the Philippines
MSMEs make up 99.52% of all businesses in the country as of 2018, according to the latest List of Establishments from the Philippine Statistics Authority.
Business owners of these small enterprises bear the brunt of the lockdown situation, with some having to rely on emergency funds and applying for cash subsidies from the Department of Labor and Employment just to keep their employees paid.
The Duterte administration set aside P1 billion for the Pondo sa Pagbabago at Pag-Asenso (P3) microfinancing special loan package of the Small Business Corporation by the Department of Trade and Industry. The Land Bank of the Philippines has also begun offering loans at a low interest rate to small and medium enterpises.
Meanwhile, the government is planning a P51-billion subsidy program for middle class workers of small business.
The Phiippines is under a state of calamity. Luzon is under enhanced community quarantine until April 30, while other areas in the country have also declared lockdowns to curb the spread of the disease.
As of April 28, there have been 7,958 confirmed cases of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the country, with 530 deaths and 975 recoveries. – Rappler.com