WB: PH gov’t response to Covid-19 saves 1.8M Pinoys from poverty

By Kris Crismundo

July 13, 2023, 8:24 pm

MANILA – A World Bank (WB) study shows that the emergency assistance of the Philippine government during the height of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic has prevented 1.8 million Filipinos to fall into poverty.

World Bank’s report, “Crisis and Recovery: Learning from Covid-19 Economic Impacts and Policy Responses in East Asia”, released in Washington on July 12, cited the Philippines, Mongolia and Cambodia whose governments’ pandemic responses were able to mitigate the increase in poverty due to the global health crisis.

“Results from a macro-micro simulation model suggest that as a result of the 9.5 percent drop in GDP (gross domestic product) in 2020, the incidence of poverty would have increased to 23.5 percent had the government not implemented emergency Covid assistance measures. Thanks to assistance programs, the incidence of poverty actually declined by 1.6 percentage points, preventing 1.8 million Filipinos from being poor,” the World Bank said.

The report said the Philippine government’s provision of Social Amelioration Program (SAP) for the beneficiaries of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) beneficiaries mitigated food insecurity during the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ), the country’s most stringent lockdown period.

The World Bank, however, found challenges in the past implementation of SAP such as weak delivery systems, which made beneficiaries queue for many hours during the pandemic to receive cash assistance from the government, and delays in the distribution of SAP.

“The simulation assumes inefficiencies in the targeting of beneficiaries. If targeting had been perfect, the decline in the incidence of poverty would have been 3.2 percentage points in 2020,” it added.

The World Bank also said the Covid-19 pandemic has hit the Philippines harder than most of the countries in the region and severely affected vulnerable groups.

It added poverty is expected to decline in the coming years, however, it will remain high compared to the poverty incidence pre-pandemic due to the record economic slump during the height of Covid-19 global health crisis.

“Like feeling one’s way across a dark room, Covid-19 put governments and societies in an uncertain place. With no real play book to work from, countries had to move quickly with limited information and experience to contain both the pandemic and the financial fallout,” World Bank Program Leader for Human Development in East Asia Maria Ana Lugo said. (PNA)