Philippines spends over 55 bln U.S. dollars for COVID-19 response in 2020: official

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MANILA, Jan. 12 (Xinhua) -- The Philippines has spent 2.66 trillion pesos (roughly 55.3 billion U.S. dollars) in 2020 for its direct response to the COVID-19 pandemic, accounting for 14.7 percent of the country's gross domestic product (GDP), the government finance chief revealed on Tuesday.

Philippine Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez said in a statement that the government's pandemic financial response in the past 10 months of 2020 included a large social protection program that provided emergency cash grants to low-income Philippine families and wage subsidies to workers in small businesses.

The government also spent money on the purchase of medical resources to fight COVID-19 and ensure the safety of frontliners and fiscal and monetary actions to keep the economy afloat and support recovery initiatives, he added.

According to the Department of Finance (DOF), the Philippines' gross borrowings for last year is projected to increase to 3 trillion pesos (around 62.4 billion U.S. dollars), which is triple the 2019 level of 1.02 trillion pesos (around 21.2 billion U.S. dollars).

Meanwhile, the country's debt-to-GDP ratio is projected to reach 53.5 percent in 2020, up from the 2019's historic low of 39.6 percent.

The 2020 debt-to-GDP ratio is "well within the prescribed bounds of fiscal viability," Dominguez said.

For 2021, the Philippine government expected to bank on reopening the Southeast Asian country's economy as safely as possible, with its larger-than-ever 4.5-trillion-peso (roughly 91.65-billion-U.S. dollar) national budget, which will provide the government sufficient means to hasten the recovery of the economy, the DOF said.

The Philippine government projected the GDP to decrease by 8.5 percent to 9.5 percent in 2020.

With most provinces and cities under quarantine in 2020 amid the pandemic, the Philippine economy shrank by 11.5 percent in the third quarter last year, following a contraction by 16.9 percent in the second quarter, and 0.7 percent in the first quarter. Enditem

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