Economists from Ateneo de Manila University on Monday called on the government to abandon its 6.5 percent to 7.5 percent economic growth target, and instead boost health spending and social protection as well as address economic and social costs ahead of a looming recession due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

They urged the government to double unconditional cash transfers to P73 billion to support households not included in the program and distribute P3.5 billion or P50 million to each of the 69 hospitals under the Department of Health to ensure adequate health services, medical supplies and protection of all health workers.

“Enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) will put to a stop large segments of the economy, thereby choking both supply and demand, and threatening an economic recession in 2020,” Ateneo economics faculty and researchers from the Ateneo Center for Economic Research and Development (ACERD) said in a statement titled “Arresting the Impact of COVID-19 on the PH Economy.”

“At this time, the government is the only institution that is able to respond to the massive scale of effort required of the situation,” they said.

To address economic and social costs of the pandemic, the Ateneo economists proposed deferring income tax filing and loan repayments to July 31, 2020 and the grant of tax credits to businesses that continue to pay staff during the quarantine.

Government should also assume utilities payments of up to P500 a month per household from March to June 2020, and estimated the cost at roughly P50 billion.

Ateneo economists called on the top 30 corporations in the Philippines that earned at least P5 billion in profits in 2019 to contribute P1 billion each to raise P30 billion and help deliver health services. (