"All countries are in the same predicament."
Those who continue to harangue the administration for alleged incompetence, corruption and even insensitivity in our COVID-19 response efforts should take pause. Yes, we now have the singular distinction of having the longest lockdown albeit in varying degrees under this pandemic. Too, we now have the highest rate of infection in the ASEAN and in the circle of Top 15 COVID-19 infected countries globally.
Of course, the critics have chosen to ignore the fact that the bulk of infections has been limited to the Mega Manila and Metro Cebu areas - the country's most densely populated areas. The rest of the country have been left largely unscathed. They have also failed to mention that we are the only country in ASEAN with millions of workers overseas, many of whom we have safely repatriated back home with a good number carrying the virus and transmitting the same to their welcomers. The fact that we have a better batting average than most countries in recoveries and, get this, one of the lowest case mortality rates (CMR) globally, has also been hardly mentioned.
Instead of coming out with the total narrative and at least completing the comparative response analysis with the rest of the world, the screaming headlines have insinuated corruption in the procurement of medical supplies and equipment. While there have been questionable transactions like the purchases early on of a number of molecular laboratories for COVID-19 designated government hospitals, PPEs, testing kits and other critical medical supplies, these missteps do not tell the entire procurement story. Like it or not, we have been able to make do better than expected, competing with the rest of the world for such scarce supplies using our meager resources.
Of course, we could have done better had we moved early on in securing commitments from suppliers and mobilizing our very own manufacturers to do some of the supplying. Sadly, we are learning how to cope with a pandemic like we have never witnessed before the hard way with all the tears and heartaches these bring in its wake.
But we are not alone. Other countries, including the most advanced ones, have their own sad stories to share and tell. But that is getting ahead of the story.
The more unfortunate thing as we slog on to find our footing and, as the experts are now suggesting, live with the virus, is that the blame throwing and finger pointing have not abated. While our neighbors have come around to lessen the politicking, lower the blame decibels and even grudgingly support their national response efforts, the critics continue to belittle our own efforts. Now, the more vocal ones are accusing the government of insensitivity in issuing all kinds of requirements which, in their own calculations, would only further impoverish the poorest of the poor and bring more hardship to our people. Now, the focus is our slide into recession with the 16.5-percent economic downturn in the second quarter and 17.7 percent rate of unemployment in the same period.
Again, these developments are surely unnerving and unprecedented. Never have we experienced the same in recent memory. If we cannot arrest this slide in time, the way out of it would be very problematic indeed. But again, we say: We are not alone. The world is getting into recession. All countries are in the same predicament. Some may be better positioned to handle the situation, but nobody has been spared from the whiplash brought about by this invisible enemy.
Once the darling of investors and tourists, Singapore's recession has been described as deeper than earlier estimated by the experts. The country's economy shrank by more than 40 percent in the second quarter, bringing the city state's recession to a deeper hole than earlier expected. With the world essentially under a lockdown, the country's other lifeline as a trading hub with a Swiss-like financial system to boot has all but receded into the background. Even the biggest and relatively more resilient economies like the United States, China, Japan, key members of the European Union, Canada and Australia are essentially in the same state of economic shrinkage.
The only question left is: Are we prepared or are we preparing to handle this twin scourge of a health and economic crisis now that we have gone through months of an uphill battle? The answer is: Barely – unless we learn our lessons well and get around to think of country rather than members of sectors or groupings rowing our own separate canoes instead of the ship of state.