NEDA ready to turn over transition plan to next government

Louise Maureen Simeon - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — The incoming administration would have to ensure a strong macro fiscal foundation and build on existing policy reforms of the Duterte government to guarantee sustained economic growth in the next six years.

In a briefing on Thursday, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Chua said the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) is ready anytime to dialogue with the team of presumptive president Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.

NEDA is part of the transition team created by President Duterte to ensure a smooth transfer of responsibilities by June 30.

Apart from Chua, the team consists of Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr., Finance chief Carlos Dominguez III, and Budget officer-in-charge Tina Rose Marie Canda.

“In general terms, there are two things that I think are most important. First is to ensure a strong macro fiscal foundation, to maintain a responsible and prudent fiscal policy,” Chua said.

Maintaining a macro fiscal prudence will help keep the country’s credit ratings high, which means that the Philippines can borrow at cheaper rates and sustainably fund its projects such as infrastructure.

“Second is policy continuity. President Duterte enacted many reforms and these should be retained, not reversed,” he said.

Chua said the reforms include the tax reform program, the Rice Tariffication Law, the flagship Build Build Build infrastructure program, the national identification system, universal healthcare, ease of doing business, and the economic liberalization bills.

In the immediate term, Chua said there is a need to address full economic recovery, including the opening of all face-to-face classes. He said that managing inflation should also be one of the priorities.

“A significant piece missing in our recovery is the resumption of face-to-face schooling. More than the foregone economic activity due to school closures, we are very much concerned about the learning loss and impact on future productivity of our children,” Chua said.

Under Alert Level 1, children are allowed to engage in leisure and recreational activities in all indoor and outdoor venues, but face-to-face classes continue to be restricted.

In the medium-term, the NEDA chief said that important issues to be recommended to the next administration include pursuing smarter infrastructure, improving regional equity, pursuing an innovation agenda, and addressing climate change.

“We have not wasted the time to make the economy stronger. We have put in place several reforms that will increase the potential of the economy,” Chua said.

Further, Chua said that the next administration is poised to start with a “very solid foundation for infrastructure.”

By the end of Duterte’s term, 17 flagship projects will be completed, 77 are under construction, while 25 projects are under processing, which Chua said the next government could simply proceed with.

“No need to spend two to three years doing procurement or feasibility studies. These are all ready and are for implementation,” Chua said.

“As to where to get the money, that is why a strong macro fiscal foundation is key. Open the economy, create more activities to generate tax revenues that will be used to fund the equity side of infrastructure,” he said.

Amid concerns hounding the presumptive president due to lack of concrete economic plans, Chua reiterated that it is best for Marcos and his team to present their policy direction.

“Any change will create concerns. I think the best way to address some of these is for the new admin to lay out its agenda so that people can understand it better and to alleviate any concerns being expressed,” Chua said.

“It would be important to know what are the details of their proposed policies. We stand ready to have discussion and to share with them what works and what does not work,” he said.

Asked whether he plans to help the new administration, Chua said he has not received any offer and that he plans to go “somewhere else” anyway.

“I can help in any other capacity,” Chua said.

The NEDA chief said he has not heard of who the next economic team will be, but “whoever is willing, able, and available” would be fine.


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