The provincial office of the Department of Labor and Employment said this week around a hundred establishments in Palawan have either closed or retrenched employees since the pandemic. Such is expected, as the quarantine lockdowns that began in March had the local economy ground to a halt.
Cutting back on operating expenses including retrenchment of personnel is an extreme option specially for business with limited financial capacity to live out the crisis. If the goal is merely to survive, such measures are necessary, albeit painful, and not without corresponding impacts.
Reopening the economy requires managing risks. In the context of the pandemic, it challenges businesses to adopt new ways of making profit without compromising health. More importantly perhaps, it requires a government that is capable of providing the appropriate policy climate and regulatory measures to develop and guide industry.
Palawan, like the rest of the country, is trying to regain its economic footing one step at a time. Trying to revive the tourism economy in the north may be fine but there is simply more to recovery than attending to one sector of a wider economic base. The challenge is to be able to define very specific and attainable overall goals and to channel available resources, financial and otherwise, to achieve them.
The DOLE said they are expecting more businesses to cut back, if not close completely. The numbers that they have at least give us some measurable baselines on the effect of the pandemic so far on the local economy. The government’s challenge is to present a measured response to try to put the economy back on track — that includes measurable targets and concrete plans.
The present crisis provides opportunities for leadership but in the public and private realms so that Palawan can emerge from it not simply as a survivor but also a winner. It should be clear that not one person or sector has a solution figured out but there is certainly much to be achieved, beginning with a proper appreciation of the extent of the problem we are in.
Coming together to revive a hard hit economy is a gargantuan collective task that needs focus and as little political and other distractions as possible. There are unfortunately many of these distractions and taking stock of our real problems make finding solutions easier said than done. But by putting this here, we hope to do our little part on helping to focus on this challenge.