How to restore jobs? Robredo says address pandemic first, then economy opens
MANILA, Philippines — Addressing the COVID-19 pandemic would be the first order of business for Vice President Leni Robredo, if elected president in 2022, to restore jobs that have been lost due to the crisis.
Speaking before a panel from the Rotary Club of Manila, Robredo was asked about how she can restore jobs especially with adult joblessness spiking at one point to over 45 percent due to lockdowns placed amid COVID-19 transmissions.
In reply, Robredo insisted on her stand that fixing the economy and the health problem are not contradicting ideologies, as addressing the pandemic would lead to the revival of industries.
“I have never subscribed to the false dichotomy of health versus the economy. For me, for us to be able to open our economy again, we have to control the virus first. We have to control the transmission first,” Robredo said on Thursday.
“It will be very difficult to say that—you know, I know that we have to live with the virus. But it is a different thing to live with them and not controlling them. So that will be the first,” she added.
But Robredo, an economics graduate from the University of the Philippines, stressed that it does not stop with fixing the health problem, as the next administration also needs to restore the confidence in the government, so that businesses would start investing again.
According to her, the country’s foreign investments have taken a dip in recent years, and part of the reason is that investors are not confident with the situation in the country.
Also, she added that micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) need assistance as they are the sector most affected by the pandemic.
“The second thing is confidence. You know, even before the pandemic happened, we already had problems with foreign direct investments. We were already filling in that particular aspect and confidence is one of the reasons why we’re not doing very well as far as attracting foreign investments are concerned,” she explained.
“As far as our local economy is concerned, we all know for a fact that a large swath of our businesses are MSMEs. A lot of them closed shop during the pandemic and that is equivalent to a lot of jobs lost. So one of the things I’ve been pushing since last year was not just offering low interest loans to our MSMEs. But really providing for a stimulus package for them,” she added.
One of the panelists praised her for her answers, but noted that Robredo failed to give an exact number of how many jobs can be restored if she takes office. In response, the Vice President admitted that it is hard to “overpromise”, or give a number that is greater than what can be achieved.
Robredo said that the reason for this is because she does not have a clear picture of how the country is really faring — both regarding the COVID-19 pandemic and the economy.
“Sir, as I have said earlier, I do not want to overpromise. I just can’t promise the number of jobs without really understanding what is the exact plane we are taking off from. I don’t have enough data to say that, you know, we have this much money to infuse in this particular activity,” she replied.
“So as I have said, it’s many different moving parts and you know, one thing I can promise is I will make sure that my administration will inspire confidence as far as the business sector is concerned,” she added.
Aside from providing innovative solutions to the pandemic, Robredo and her office have been making several suggestions about how the country can address the economic crisis. However, the administration brushed these aside, saying that they were already working on the suggestions before Robredo even thought of it.
Last Thursday, Robredo ended months long speculations about her next political plans, announcing that she will be running for president after unity talks with other candidates fell through.
Robredo said earlier that she has given up on uniting presidential candidates, as she is now focusing on building a wide coalition within the public instead.
Subscribe to our daily newsletter
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.