Year 2022 should be a time for better economic opportunities. Covid-19, hopefully, will dissipate and be reduced to a common cold in the face of increasing vaccination coverage. That will give the economy more room to expand and generate more job opportunities.
Twenty-twenty two is the opportune time to achieve the goal of regaining our pre-pandemic economic levels, which Covid-19 disrupted in the past two years. We need to ensure that our economy is back on track for the sake of our growing population, which crossed the 110-million mark on January 1 this year.
Our gross domestic product (GDP) shrank 9.6 percent in 2020, according to the revised estimates of the Philippine Statistics Authority. In dollar terms, it declined to $361.5 billion in 2020 from $376.8 billion a year ago, based on World Bank data. The drop would be more significant on a per capita basis, if we consider the increase in our population during the period.
While the economy likely rebounded by about 5 percent in 2021, it was not enough to offset the 9.6-percent drop in 2020. This means if we are to achieve our pre-pandemic economic output in 2022, we should grow by another 5 percent or more this year.
The expansion will help us attain our goal of becoming an upper middle-income economy by 2022 or 2023. The World Bank defines an upper middle-income economy as one with a gross national income per capita of $4,046 or more. According to the World Bank, the GNI per capita (formerly GNP per capita) of the Philippines fell to $3,430 in 2020 from $3,850 in 2019. This should have recovered in 2021 and should continue to improve in 2022.
Becoming an upper middle-income economy is an important milestone because it means higher purchasing power for Filipinos. This, in turn, will support various industries and generate more business opportunities for our people. It will also make us one of the largest economies in the world, given our large population of 110 million.
The PSA and the Commission on Population and Development estimate that the Philippine population likely breached the 110-million mark on the first day of 2022, rising by about 324,000 or 0.3 percent in 2021, despite the impact of the pandemic.
Thus, we need to sustain the growth of our economy for our 110 million people. Failure to do so will exacerbate poverty incidence and the unemployment rate.
Growing our economy, while the threat of the pandemic still lingers, requires a delicate balancing act. We could only achieve our lofty economic goals if we stay alert and cautious. The recent holiday activities, especially mask-free events such as home parties, dinners and karaoke sessions, may have contributed to the rise in new cases, with the virus reproduction number exceeding 1.0 again in Metro Manila.
While there is nothing wrong about celebrating with family and friends, we should keep in mind that we have to be very careful to avoid getting infected or infecting others. The celebration will be more meaningful if we are safe and protected.
The Department of Health registered 1,623 new Covid-19 cases on December 30, pushing the number of active infections to 11,772. I have earlier said that to lift business and consumer confidence, we should keep the virus reproduction rate below 1.0 and manage the active cases to less than 10,000, so that our health-care facilities would have enough room to treat everyone.
We should also continue to apply our lessons from the September 2021 outbreak, when daily new infections exceeded the 20,000 level. Local government units should not hesitate to impose granular or localized lockdowns in areas with rising Covid-19 cases to manage the situation and keep the infections from spreading to other communities.
Business establishments should abide by the IATF guidelines, while individuals should follow health protocols such as the face mask mandate and social distancing measures. It is important to remain cautious and alert, or we may lose our freedom of mobility again if the situation gets out of control.
We have learned in the past that a general lockdown will not necessarily contain the pandemic and might only spread the virus faster in households that do not wear face masks. On the other hand, allowing businesses to reopen, while observing the necessary protocols and measures such as regular temperature checks, could actually work.
The cooperation of the population is critical to managing the pandemic. A healthy population, as I have been saying in the past, is the key to our economic recovery. It will lead us to the pre-pandemic economic levels and open more job and business opportunities for all of us in 2022.