MANILA - In the Philippines, there are early signs that the overall economic impact of Typhoon Haiyan will likely be less than other storms in recent years. But officials say there remains a dire need to immediately focus on reviving farming areas and providing jobs to communities directly in the storm's path.
Three weeks after the super typhoon battered the central Philippines, government figures show damages cost $635 million. The losses are about $300 million less than those of Typhoon Bopha, which struck the southeastern Philippines late last year.
This week, the National Economic Development Authority said the economy grew by 7 percent in the third quarter. The agency says in this part of the world the Philippines had the second best economy after China. But the typhoon-affected regions, which contribute 12 percent to the gross domestic product, are expected to knock the year’s growth back by half a percent.
Philippine Central Bank Governor Armando Tetangco says there will be a negative impact for the next three months.
He said, “But the counterforce to that would be the increased government spending for relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction. Looking at the national income accounts, one would see that government spending, particularly infra spending, give a significant boost.”
Tetangco says the Philippines has shown resilience during crises because it has sustained a steady growth rate, kept inflation down, has a surplus in domestic savings and maintains significant international reserves, allowing it to keep up with debt payments.
The Central Bank projects a five percent annual increase in overseas remittances (which were $21 billion last year). But Tetangco says there could be additional money coming in as relatives send extra to support storm survivors.
While the losses from the typhoon will have less of an impact on the overall economy, people on the ground are looking for work. Rice and coconut farming as well as fishing are main sources of income in the hardest hit areas. The United Nations says the typhoon affected more than 13 million people and left five million people without an income.
Government agencies this week submitted a proposal for immediate rehabilitation needs in the typhoon-stricken area to the president. Officials say it includes plans for providing shelter, restoring livelihoods and rebuilding public structures such as schools and hospitals.
The U.N. has a companion plan, for which it consulted residents to find their immediate needs. Orla Fagan is spokeswoman for the U.N.’s humanitarian affairs office in Manila. She calls Filipinos resilient and says the residents will play a major role in their own recovery one step at a time.
“Mid- towards end-December is when we need to get the seeds into the ground," she said. "If we can get the seeds in the ground, people will have a harvest in March and April. So that won’t be as urgent. If we can get nails and hammers and chainsaws to them they can start building their own homes.”
The U.N.’s International Labor Office is sponsoring temporary emergency employment through a cash-for-work scheme. But it only employs people for 15 days.
Labor Office Disaster Response and Livelihoods Officer Simon Hills says the office assesses the temporary workers.
“From there we look to identify skills and groups and for some of those we will try and get further skills training or employment opportunities,” he said.
The government agencies are expected to refine the immediate needs plan and resubmit it to the president next week.