Weathering the economic storm

“Tumataas ang halaga ng lahat ng bilihin.” The prices of all goods are going up. That is what we hear from a good number of Filipinos these days.

Oil prices went up again early this week. The inflation rate for September was 6.9 percent, up from the August figure of 6.3 percent. This exceeded market forecasts of 6.7 percent and is the highest recorded inflation rate since 2018.

Last month’s increase in the inflation rate was attributed primarily to the increase in the index for food and non-alcoholic beverages. Unfortunately, the worse may not be over as inflation may still go up this month till the end of the year, with the rise in the prices of food being the probable driver for such.

There are several reasons for the increase in the prices of basic goods and commodities. The Russian invasion of Ukraine and the Covid-19 pandemic have disrupted the supply chain, caused tremendous increases in the prices of various goods and commodities, burdened the national budget, brought up debt, and adversely impacted on productivity, among others.

Then we have the problems brought about by climate change. Super typhoon “Karding” damaged 170,762 hectares of farmlands, affecting 108,594 farmers and fisherfolk.

There are causes for this economic crisis that are beyond the control of ordinary citizens. It is the role of the government to manage and mitigate the negative effects of such on its people.

In the Philippine case, I am confident that the present economic team knows what to do. As for the big business players, they also know what to do. This column intends to dwell on what Micro, Small and Medium-Scale Enterprises and the average citizen should do to weather the current economic crisis.

Given the high cost of many basic goods and commodities, the first thing for an MSME to do is to attain efficiency in the production of goods or the delivery of services. Minimum input, maximum output. For the average citizen, it is to save where one can save, foregoing luxuries and non-essentials.

While cutting down on costs, an MSME should at the same time try to maximize income. This would mean trying to increase sales, looking for new products needed by the market, differentiating products and services, innovating, and simply working harder.

For the average-earning individual, those whose incomes have been reduced, have lost, or have no jobs, it would be the same. It would be working harder, getting extra work, and going the extra mile to look for work.

I was talking earlier this week to a worker who is in one of the industries hardest hit by the pandemic, tourism. Though tourism is slowly returning, it is not yet at pre-pandemic levels. The rising prices of basic goods have exacerbated his situation. To survive the crisis, he is working double time, taking an extra non-tourist-related job.

Finally, whether one is an MSME or an ordinary citizen, it is not simply a question of cutting costs, saving, and working harder. One must also ask for the Lord’s assistance. I have always lived with the Benedictine motto, “Ora et Labora”. Pray and work. God helps those who help themselves.

This storm will pass. It is simply how we weather it.

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