Profiles, Stories

Sec. Karl Kendrick Chua On Recovering The Economy

With the continuing presence of COVID-19 and lockdowns still in place for several parts of the country, small and medium businesses (SMEs) continue to find ways to innovate and to stay afloat.

To support and honor SMEs in the Philippines in light of the pandemic, Globe myBusiness in cooperation with CHiNOY TV and the Alumni Association of Xavier School (AAXS) held the Create. Modern Tao Ke. – The Future of Your Business: Insights from Experts Leading to a New Tomorrow as the fourth installment of the webinar series.

The event took place on August 21, 2020, with the support of Caylum Trading Institute, Bestank Manufacturing Corporation, Lexus Manila Incorporated, Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System Regulatory Office, Savya Financial Center, and Sevina Park.

Kicking off the night was a keynote talk from Karl Kendrick Chua, the Acting Secretary of Socioeconomic Planning and Director General at the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA). Aside from being a graduate of Xavier School (Batch 1996), Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU), and the University of the Philippines School of Economics, his previous work includes positions at the World Bank, the Ateneo de Manila University, Accenture, and the Department of Finance.

Chua’s talk served as an update on the economy and recovery program, and what policymaking entails, especially how decisions are made in NEDA.


He stated two important economic principles. The first, “Nothing is free from heaven,” shows Chua explaining that the government does not have unlimited resources. The second idea, “Everything is a trade-off,” explains that not all their decisions would be perfect. “There will be winners and losers, and we have to make the best judgments on how we can allocate scarce resources, time, and budget to get the best impact,” he explained.

Chua explained the current administration’s vision to reduce the poverty rate to 14%, to completely eradicate extreme poverty by 2040, and to become an upper-middle-class country. He shared that their promise to lift 6 million people out of poverty was achieved in 2018, which was a trend that continued from the previous administration to the current one. He also shared the current progress of the 10-Point Socioeconomic Agenda, with most points achieved and only Rural Development, Land Management, and the Reproductive Health Law being worked on.


Although the country entered 2020 with the best possible economic prospects, progress was put to a halt with COVID-19 impacting the world. “In the first three months, we prioritized saving lives from COVID above everything else,” Chua said, with benefits of the Expanded Community Quarantine (ECQ) including more testing and averting cases and deaths. The downside was the decline of the economy and a high unemployment rate due to the closing of businesses. P655 billion was allocated to help people cope with the pandemic and to improve the healthcare system.

Despite the economic decline, manufacturing and exports are slowly improving. Chua believes that the country is in a stronger economic position to address the crisis and to return everything to normal as much as possible. He and NEDA acknowledged that the pandemic would increase class inequality among rich and poor citizens, hence this has become a factor NEDA has taken into account.


Chua shared that the reality is that the virus is most likely going to remain for a long period. “We will have to do a serious re-balancing from just saving lives from COVID to saving lives from all other sicknesses – from hunger, from defective genes, or lifestyle,” he explained, continuing, “We are in a marathon rather than a sprint. The whole world would have to dance with the virus. Sometimes we take two steps forward, sometimes we take one step back.”

He then outlined the different Bayanihan Acts. Bayanihan I is described as the Emergency Stage from March to May 2020, while currently, the country is at the Bayanihan II Recovery Stage from June to December 2020. NEDA plans the Bayanihan III Resiliency Stage to take place in 2021 once the virus dies down. Bayanihan II, also known as the Recover As One Act, focuses on the following: supporting the healthcare system; enhancing testing, tracing, isolation, and treatment; supporting public transport; support critically affected sectors and workers in quarantined areas; and providing capital infusion to government financial institutions to allow them to lend to more small businesses and to help smaller banks. The Bayanihan II is one of three parts of the government’s recovery program, with the other two being the Build, Build, Build infrastructure program, and the 2021 budget.

The general direction of their recovery program includes two more steps. First is to provide equity support to strategically distressed firms, then allow the disposal of bad loans and assets to serve more businesses and SMEs.

Going back to his two important economic principles, he shares, “When we do policy, when we try to help the economy, there is no way we can help everyone. Everything is a tradeoff. With limited time, budget, and resources, we would have to find the best use of limited resources. Normally, we give it to the most productive sector that is crucial for surviving for today and also tomorrow.” Expanding on the need for tradeoffs, he recounted a story where he taught his young son Ashby the importance of paying taxes to help underprivileged people.

Aside from economic advice, he shares more general advice. Chua first advises people should know the facts to be informed with correct information. Another tip he shares is for more people to contribute solutions – not just what to do, but how to accomplish them. Finally, he encourages people to share more good news on the progress of working solutions. “These are the things that we have to take into account to be more educated and responsible people so that we can contribute real, lasting solutions, rather than contributing to a lot of the confusion,” he said to conclude his talk.

After ending his talk, Chua partook in a Q&A with the Webinar’s viewers moderated by CHiNOY TV host Valerie Tan, where he shared more insights regarding the current pandemic, the challenges NEDA currently faces, and the tradeoffs that the Philippines faces in later on.

The Future of Your Business: Insights from Experts Leading to a New Tomorrow edition of the Modern Tao Ke Webinar served as the fourth webinar of the Create. Modern Tao Ke E-Series. Through this event, Globe myBusiness’ equips the Chinese-Filipino community with the proper knowledge and business solutions to rebuild their businesses, especially at a time where many Chinoys are operating their businesses in the new normal.

Head over to CHiNOY TV’s Facebook page for the webinar’s replay, including Sec. Chua’s full talk!

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