MANILA, Philippines – Opposition Rep. Rufus Rodriguez disclosed yesterday that the much-publicized economic stimulus fund is worth only P10 billion and not P330 billion as administration officials claim.
He said during the hearing on the proposals to increase taxes on soft drinks, cigarettes and liquor that the bulk of the fund is not new money and consists of appropriations in the proposed 2009 national budget that have been repackaged as part of the stimulus program.
“The large portion of it, about P160 billion, represents the increase in the national budget from 2008 to 2009. Those funds are mostly for infrastructure agencies,” the Cagayan de Oro congressman said.
He said the proposed budget for this year was put together before the global economic crisis erupted last year.
“Even the tax break we gave minimum wage earners in June last year before big banks in the United States collapsed is being counted as part of the stimulus package,” he said.
He added that the P100 billion to come from private banks and government financial institutions, including the Social Security System and Government Service Insurance System, is still up in the air.
“Why should the administration involve private funds such as those in SSS which are contributed by workers in a government undertaking such as this stimulus package?” Rodriguez asked.
He pointed out that the only real economic stimulus fund is the P10 billion inserted by Congress in the 2009 budget.
He also warned other congressmen not to increase taxes “at a time when the world, including our country, is in deep economic trouble with many rich nations already in recession.”
“Higher taxes could cause more financial difficulties for local companies, which might be forced to lay off more workers. That will worsen the problem of joblessness,” he said.
He said in the United States, where lawmakers have just approved a $787-billion economic stimulus program, the government is granting tax breaks and incentives worth more than $200 billion.
“Here, we want our people to pay more taxes instead of giving them more money to spend,” he said.
Isabela Rep. Giorgidi Aggabao supported Rodriguez’s appeal, saying that most economic analysts insist that the best way to manage a recession is for governments to leave money in people’s pockets instead of collecting it.–Jess Diaz, Philippine Star