The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) on Friday predicted that between 40,000 and 200,000 Filipinos would be laid off from work this year because of the global economic crisis.
“That’s the range for the whole year, a big range. Definitely, it will raise the unemployment rate,” said Dennis Arroyo, the chief of the authority’s national planning and policy staff. He pointed out, though, that the unemployment rate would not reach 10 percent.
No massive job losses face those working in the government, however.
On the contrary, Budget Secretary Rolando Andaya Jr., said also on Friday, the government would hire a total of 60,500 state workers this year.
Arroyo said the expected adverse impact of the job losses in the private sector is already being addressed by the Department of Labor Employment by shifting overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) from host countries with weak demand to those with a strong one.
“The Middle East countries are responding to the crisis by pump-priming and spending on infrastructure projects,” he added. “That would [offset] OFW unemployment in construction. There are also new markets in Guam, New Zealand and Australia.”
Arroyo said he is optimistic that the 2009 gross domestic product (GDP) would not fall below the low-end target of 3.7 percent for 2009. GDP is the total value of goods and services produced in a country in a year.
Last year, the economy grew 4.6 percent from the previous year’s 7.2 percent.
“The crisis began in September and hit hard in October, November and December. Hence, the fourth quarter of 2008 was already in the crisis era. Yet, the economy still grew by 4.5 percent,” Arroyo said.
He added that the 2009 GDP target range of 3.7 percent to 4.7 percent assumed merchandise export growth of 1 percent to 3 percent. Arroyo said that in the fourth quarter of last year, export growth was at negative 9.2 percent.
“One would have expected the economy to post growth lower than 3.7 percent. But what happened was that manufacturing for the domestic market compensated for the drop in exports,” he added. Manufacturing growth accelerated to 3.2 percent in the fourth quarter of 2008, compared with 2.6 percent in the fourth quarter of 2007. It was buoyed by food manufacturing, beverage, chemicals and chemical products.
Winners and losers
Arroyo said that he expects fertilizer and fuel prices to go down, a possibility that would boost agriculture, forestry and fisheries, in particular.
Mining projects would be delayed because of “hesitance to invest” under the global crisis.
Manufacturing, according to Arroyo, would be dragged by exports but eventually would shift to the domestic economy. There also would be a big public-construction push, positive response from private construction, power-sector reforms and expansion of water-service areas.
The services sector, Arroyo said, would see lower fuel prices in 2009 than in 2008 that would spur the transport, communication and storage subsector.
“Lower inflation will boost retail trade but there will be an overhang of weaker consumer confidence because of the crisis,” he added. For the finance subsector, banks would be healthy but the stock market and insurance industry would still be weak.
Funds for mass hiring
In assuring job stability in the government sector, Budget Secretary Andaya pointed to “mass hiring” there and funds “for that purpose have already been earmarked in the 2009 national budget.”
“While the economic crunch had resulted in mass layoffs in the private sector, it is not true in the public sphere,” he said.
Andaya made the assurance in reaction to concerns aired by Courage, a public-sector union, that the rationalization plan of the government would displace a significant number of government workers.
Countering Courage, Andaya cited the budget of the Department of Education that alone allows for the hiring of 10,000 teachers and another 2,000 non-teaching personnel this year.
“This [recruitment] will bring the number of teaching and non-teaching personnel of the department to 506,000,” he said.
Andaya added that funds have been earmarked too for the hiring of 500 jail guards for the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology and the Bureau of Corrections.
Jobs in demand
Also, around 3,000 policemen will also be recruited this year to strengthen the Philippine National Police under the Department of the Interior and Local Government.
Andaya said that under the recently announced Nurses Assigned in Rural Areas (NARS) program, 5,000 nurses would be employed to serve in far-flung villages.
He added that around P2 billion in the 2009 budget has been allocated for the government reforestration program, which authorizes the hiring of 40,000 workers for the program and energy projects as well.
Besides the money given to the Education department, Andaya said that state colleges and universities had been authorized to hire additional academic personnel under their respective charters.
“All of these [jobs] are aimed at cushioning the effect of the global economic crunch on the private sector, which had no choice but to cut down the number of employees because of the financial slowdown,” he added.
The Budget secretary said that these government vacancies had been allocated funds. Earlier, Malacañang said it plans to order government agencies to set aside 1.5 percent of their maintenance and operating expenses, estimated to be at P7 billion, for the hiring of 180,000 casual employees for six months.
Andaya clarified that a plan to abolish redundant positions in the government had been advanced not only because of the cost of maintaining such but to improve service delivery by cutting red tape through systems and reorganization.
State employees affected by the rationalization will not include professionals, such as policemen, teachers, doctors, midwives and firemen, he said.
The implementation of the plan will be democratic, consultative and non-coercive, all part of creating a “smarter government,” Andaya added.
–Darwin G. Amojelar And Angelo S. Samonte(ManilaTimes)