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Philippine CEOs unhappy with ‘slow’ vaccine rollout — survey

September 13, 2021 | 4:45pm

Pregnant women line up for a jab of Astrazeneca vaccine at Pinyahan Elementary School in Quezon City on Sept. 4, 2021.

The STAR / Michael Varcas

MANILA, Philippines — Over half of Philippine chief executives are unhappy with the national government’s vaccine rollout, which is key to preventing future lockdowns that are highly disruptive to businesses, a new survey released Monday found.

Sixty-six percent of the country’s CEOs are “dissatisfied with the vaccine rollout in the Philippines,” according to a poll conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC Philippines) and Management Association of the Philippines (MAP), a business group.

The survey — which polled 178 CEOs of locally based companies, most of whom are members of MAP — was conducted from July to August, when Metro Manila and some provinces briefly returned to strict lockdowns amid a COVID-19 flare-up fueled by the highly-infectious Delta variant. Broken down, 62% of respondents were from large corporations while the rest belonged to micro, small and medium enterprises.

“We’re not that bad behind inoculations. We’re unhappy of course,” Aurelio Montinola, MAP president, told a news conference.

As of September 12, the Philippines has administered 38.7 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines, but government data showed 16.8 million people have so far been fully-vaccinated. The Philippines has so far received 56.7 million shots from various sources, including the global COVAX facility.

The government was originally hoping to fully-vaccinate 70% of the country’s 109 million population, but the emergence of the super-contagious Delta variant prompted the state to increase the target vaccination coverage to 90% which, policymakers said, would only be attained in 2022, at the earliest, amid tight supply.

The Philippines is now seeing an average of more than 20,000 new cases per day.

According to PwC and MAP’s survey, 76% of CEOs polled said a sluggish immunization program is the biggest factor that could delay the economy’s recovery. Ahead of the 2022 elections, 44% of CEOs flagged “political uncertainty” as another cause for concern.

Meanwhile, 43% of CEOs said “reliance on lockdowns” is another factor that could stall recovery. For each day that the country remains under lockdowns, survey results showed 42% of business leaders said that their average daily sales and revenues decline by at least 20%.

The government is currently studying how to implement “granular lockdowns” to allow the rest of the economy to open up to some degree. But for MAP’s Montinola, movement restrictions — regardless of their intensity — could still hurt businesses.

“You can see that there’s broader support for approach with not-purely lockdown approach. I’ll leave to experts what new terminology will be,” Montinola said. “The public might see through that its old terminology couched in different words.”

The poll also found that 34% of CEOs believe that “threats of new variants” could also derail the economy’s fragile rebound while 18% see the “lack of fiscal support for the hardest hit industries” as another spoiler of growth.

Already, half of respondent CEOs think that the economy will recover after two to three years. They forecast the country’s real gross domestic product to grow 4% in 2022, still below the pre-pandemic growth average of 6%.

But moving forward, 74% of respondents are confident about their organization’s revenue growth prospects in the next 12 months, higher than 63% outturn during the April survey. The top key growth drivers for CEOs are infrastructure development (61%), domestic consumption (54%) and government spending (52%).

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