The Palace said the allocation for the economic stimulus package is not an old measure contrary to the statements of the independent think tank Ibon Foundation.
Ibon on Friday said in a statement that the government’s P330-billion stimulus package is a “mere spin” of “existing allocations . . . to create the impression that something is being done to address the crisis.”
“These ‘stimulus’ funds are already there even before the recent descent into crisis . . . There is very little to indicate that . . . government is pouring any substantially new efforts to deal with the economic downturn,” said IBON research head Sonny Africa.
Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Anthony Golez belied the statement, saying the current stimulus package is a genuine allocation intended to finance infrastructure projects and create jobs.
Golez said that besides providing assistance to the marginalized sector, the package is also expected to create three million jobs this year on top of the regular job-generation programs of various government agencies.
The reported stimulus plan, which opposition Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casiño calls a “simulation package,” includes the P160-billion increase in the 2009 national budget, the P100-billion off-budget infrastructure fund, the P40-billion corporate and individual tax breaks, and alternative livelihood programs, among others.
Africa said that contrary to what government officials claim, the P1.4-trillion budget for 2009 is not a pump-priming budget, and actually is the smallest share of government spending to the GDP (gross domestic product) since 1986.
“The tepidness of the supposed pump-priming is also apparent if the effects of inflation are taken into consideration. In real terms, total non-debt spending in 2009 is only an 8.6-percent increase from the year before,” he explained.
He further said that the tax relief, which refers to foregone revenues from reducing the corporate income tax to 30 percent from 35 percent, is actually already part of the reformed value-added tax law of 2005 and exemptions from withholding tax for those earning P200,000 or less annually.
The research group head also pointed out that the P100-billion infrastructure stimulus package required the Government Service and Insurance System, Development Bank of the Philippines and LandBank to commit P50 billion with the private sector shouldering the other P50 billion.
“All these imply that the administration is not really taking additional measures in the face of the crisis, and leaves the majority of poor Filipinos on their own,” Africa said.
“If it wants the public to believe that it is taking serious steps to address the crisis, it should at the very least preserve current jobs in the public and private sectors, restore real per capita social services spending to at least 1997 levels, free public resources by stopping debt payments, and remove the value-added tax on petroleum products, among others,” he opined.
The economic resiliency plan was announced by the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) early this year.
It is intended to upgrade infrastructure and capital stock and expand social protection. NEDA said the plan aims to save and create jobs, protect the poorest of the poor, returning overseas Filipino workers and workers in export industries, ensure low and stable prices to support consumer spending, and enhance competitiveness in preparation for the rebound of the global market.
Golez said the allocation of P330 billion for the economic stimulus package is intended to blunt the impact of the global economic meltdown on the poor and out-of-school youth.
–Rommel C. Lontayao, Reporter with Angelo S. Samonte