NEDA sees no need for Bayanihan III if economy reopens

PHILIPPINE STAR/MICHAEL VARCAS

By Beatrice M. Laforga, Reporter

THE NATIONAL Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) said there is no need for Congress to pass a third stimulus package, when other measures meant to drive economic recovery have yet to be fully implemented.

“We haven’t even spent Bayanihan II and implemented FIST (Financial Institutions Strategic Transfer) and CREATE (Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises),” said Acting Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick T. Chua via Viber on Sunday, when asked if he supports the proposed Bayanihan III.

House Speaker Lord Allan Jay Q. Velasco on Friday said the House of Representatives is “prepared to pass” House Bill No. 8628 or Bayanihan to Arise as One Act (Bayanihan III), which allocates P420 billion for programs such as cash handouts, wage subsidies and financial assistance to hard-hit sectors.

However, the validity of Republic Act (RA) No. 11494 or the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act (Bayanihan II), which provides P165.5 billion for pandemic response measures, was extended until end-2021 after there were delays in disbursement and program rollout.

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Meanwhile, the newly signed RA No. 11523 or the FIST Act, which covers the establishment of asset management companies that will absorb the bad loans from banks, has not yet been implemented as rules and regulations are still being drafted.

The proposed Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises (CREATE) law is still awaiting President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s signature after its ratification on Feb. 3. The measure will slash corporate income tax and streamline fiscal perks.

Mr. Chua said in a radio interview on Friday that another stimulus measure such as Bayanihan III is no longer needed if the country’s lockdown will be further eased, allowing the economy to recover faster.

“‘Yung Bayanihan III sa tingin ko, hindi na kailangan kung buksan na natin ang ekonomiya. And pinaka-epektibo at cost-effective na paraan para ibalik ang consumer confidence ay ‘yung pagbukas ng ekonomiya nakita natin sa datos (I think Bayanihan III is no longer needed if we will further reopen the economy, which is the most efficient and cost-effective way to boost consumer confidence),” he said.

‘TARGETED’ SPENDING
Additional fiscal stimulus will help in the economy’s recovery but spending should be “targeted and fundable,” said Security Bank Chief Economist Robert Dan J. Roces in a Viber message on Friday.

“The vaccine rollout and looser curbs are stimulus themselves, and this will bode well for the economy, especially if the primary fiscal response is for infrastructure spending,” Mr. Roces added.

Albay 2nd District Rep. Jose Maria Clemente S. Salceda has called for bigger stimulus spending to boost the economy, but in a television interview last week he stressed the need for a faster rollout of other existing stimulus programs.

He said the slow disbursement of Bayanihan III funds for government financial institutions (GFIs) may impact their subsidized interest lending schemes and credit guarantee programs for affected sectors.

Data from the Budget department showed the P27.5-billion equity infusion for the Land Bank of the Philippines (LANDBANK), the P12.5 billion for the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) and the P5-billion additional equity to the Philippine Guarantee Corp. (Philguarantee) have all been released as of mid-February.

For the DBP, it said in an e-mail last week the delayed release did not affect the scheduled rollout of the bank’s lending programs.

Philguarantee also said the disbursement rate did not slow down its expanded credit guarantee program for small businesses, according to its president and CEO Alberto E. Pascual in a text message last week.

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