Cabaero: Impact on jobs

Nini Cabaero

FEWER people at the malls. Less consumption. Shorter lines. Ease in getting spa and other appointments.

These could be indications of a feared economic slowdown as a consequence of the 2019 novel or new coronavirus (2019-nCoV) scare in the country. As the count on infections and persons on quarantine continues to rise, many Cebuanos are abiding by health advisories discouraging going to public places to prevent the spread of infection.

The local tourism industry admitted last week that it is experiencing “serious financial losses” because of fewer tourist arrivals, especially from China. It is expecting the losses because of “cancellation of reservations and bookings, flight cancellations/less passenger load as this is the first casualty in the tourism industry.”

Other sectors have yet to disclose their financial situation from the start of the 2019-nCoV outbreak but, already, events such as conferences, festivals and other activities that involve the gathering of a large number of people are being canceled.

A SunStar Philippines network report last Friday, Feb. 7, 2020, said the cancellations and slowdown are happening in Cebu and other cities. In Cebu, these are the Sarok Festival of Consolacion town, the Sinulog grand parade in Talisay City as part of its Sto. Niño fiesta and the regional sports meet. Baguio City postponed to late March most of its activities related to the flower or Panagbenga festival originally set for early February.

The same report cited how the government’s economic team was downplaying the financial impact of the 2019-nCoV on the economy.

Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto M. Pernia said the Chinese spending in the Philippines of P112 billion is only a fourth of the estimated average inbound tourism spending of P450 billion, which accounts for only 5.0 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP). Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Gov. Benjamin E. Diokno also said the outbreak could reduce 2020 GDP by only about a third of a percentage point, or 0.3 percentage point, on the average.

But not only business owners and investors would be affected by an nCoV-related economic slowdown. Next to be affected would be jobs or the job security of thousands of workers in the tourism industry, real property, malls and eateries and others in the service sector.

Small and medium enterprises are starting to worry about the impact of the outbreak on their businesses. For many of them, the way to cope with the growth slowdown is to cut costs, and when they do that, personnel and salaries seem to be among the first to get slashed.

With health expenses expected to go up with the purchase of vitamins and face masks and other precautions such as getting insurance, any loss of or change in compensation could affect a person’s ability to protect one’s self from infection.

While the tourism industry may be the first sector to suffer from the coronavirus scare, the moment for truth on economic impact is yet to come.