Rodriguez asked Recto which commercial banks have pledged commitment for government infrastructure projects. Recto said all the top banks are interested but admitted that no commitments have been made.
“The package that has been announced has no firm backing,” Rodriguez said.
Casiño said, “It does not stimulate anything. Maybe we should not call this a stimulation package. Maybe we should call it a simulation package.”
Asked about the additional benefits for SSS members that are included in the package, SSS Assistant Vice President Rizaldo Capulong said, “The SSS has not committed to any additional benefits.”
Capulong said they just received instructions a day before the hearing to consider the provision of additional benefits.
Safeguards vs corruption?
Casiño asked Recto what safeguards have been instituted against corruption. “We don’t want another NBN-ZTE deal.”
The $329 million National Broadband Network (NBN) deal with Chinese firm ZTE was cancelled after generating controversies.
Recto replied, “There are better ways of doing it. We are going through that process.”
Gabriela Representative Liza Maza sought for a review of projects. “Some infrastructure projects, after evaluation, were found not to be needs-based but supplier-driven.”
A protester holds up a placard outside the House of Representatives. (Photo by R. Olea)
“We need to re-examine these projects,” said Maza. She said multilateral agencies World Bank (WB) and Asian Development Bank (ADB) decided not to pursue some of the projects due to corruption.
Jose Enrique Africa, research head of independent think-tank IBON Foundation said, “Measured against the scale of the problem, the government’s measures for supposedly dealing with the crisis are sorely lacking.
He said that the 2009 budget is far from being the “pump-priming” budget it is claimed to be. He said it is the smallest since 1990.
Africa said the principle should be, “Pinakamabilis na ginhawa sa pinakamaraming tao.” (The most immediate relief for the most number of people.)
He shunned dole outs and subsidies. The Arroyo government plans to double the budget for conditional cash transfers, continue to implement accelerated hunger-mitigation program, add a P1 billion ($21,054,404) contribution to the PhilHealth indigent program, provide more student loans, among others.
Africa said subsidies do not create jobs and such programs are prone to corruption.
Africa recommended an increase in social services spending. He said real capita spending for social services should be restored to the 1997 levels. This would mean an additional P205 billion ($4,316,152,939) for education and P36 billion ($757,958,564) for health.
Africa said, “Sadly, this government is obsessed with pleasing foreign creditors.” He noted that a huge chunk of the national budget goes to debt servicing.
Africa also said that the 12-percent value-added tax (VAT) on food and oil must be scrapped. He said that two-thirds of the poor’s expenditures goes to food.
Africa asserted the economy does not have sound fundamentals. Unless radical economic policies are implemented, job creation will always be a problem, he said.
He said that agrarian reform and national industrialization are the solutions to the worsening economic crisis. (Bulatlat.com)