Members of the House Committee on Economic Affairs grilled National Economic Development Agency (NEDA) Director General Ralph Recto over the P330-billion economic stimulus package at a hearing, February 4. The stimulus package, which is much touted by the Arroyo administration, turned out to be a mere repackaging of old programs. Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casiño called it a “simulation package”.
BY RONALYN V. OLEA
Members of the House Committee on Economic Affairs grilled National Economic Development Agency (NEDA) Director General Ralph Recto over the P330-billion ($6,316,321,374 at the current exchange rate of $1=P47.496) economic stimulus package at a hearing, February 4. The stimulus package, which is much touted by the Arroyo administration, turned out to be a mere repackaging of old programs.
Dennis Arroyo, NEDA National Planning and Policy Staff (NPSS) director, presented the Arroyo administration’s so-called ‘economic resiliency plan’ during the said hearing.
While acknowledging the vulnerability of certain sectors to the global economic crisis, NEDA’s Arroyo maintained that the Philippine economy is resilient.
NEDA’s Arroyo presented the components of the P330-billion ($6,316,321,374) stimulus fund – P160- billion ($3,368,704,733) for the incremental budget; P40 billion ($842,176,183) for corporate and individual tax breaks; P100 billion ($2,105,440,458) for government-owned and controlled corporations (GOCCs), government financial institutions (GFIs) and private sector and P30 billion ($631,632,137) for temporary additional benefits to Government Service Insurance System (GSIS)/Social Security System (SSS)/ PhilHealth members.
Protesters staged a picket outside the House of Representatives to oppose the use of Social Security System (SSS) funds for the economic stimulus package.(Photo by R. Olea)
However, Representatives from the opposition were not convinced.
Cagayan de Oro Representative Rufus Rodriguez retorted, “The P160 billion is the increase from the 2008 to the 2009 national budget. The P40 billion tax relief …this we approved in the middle of 2008. It’s hardly part of the stimulus package.”
Rodriguez asked NEDA Chief Ralph Recto, “[This is like] recycling what we’ve approved. Isn’t this misleading?”
Unable to answer the question, Recto replied, “The full benefits will be felt in 2009.”
When Bayan Muna Representative Teodoro Casiño Jr. asked if there is a concrete response from the Arroyo government to address the global economic crisis, Recto replied that there was none, “If you’re looking for a supplemental stimulus budget, di kaya ng Pilipinas ‘yan. (The Philippines cannot afford that.)”
Recto admitted that they are financially conservative. He said the Arroyo administration must always consider the credit-worthiness of the country.
SSS officials attending the hearing were asked about the P12.5 billion ($263,180,057) commitment announced by SSS Chair Romulo Neri.
Under the NEDA plan, the P50 billion ($1,052,720,229) from social security institutions could be tapped for the following projects: LRT Line 1 Extension, MRT 3 Capacity Expansion, LRT Line 2 East Extension to Masinag, and LRT Line 1 South Extension Project.
SSS Senior Vice President for Investments Edgar Solilapsi said the SSS Board has not yet passed a resolution regarding Neri’s proposal.
This angered Rodriguez, “It is premature to announce the package.”
Recto said, “It is a plan, not a package.”