Who is Karl Chua, NEDA’s new acting secretary?

Ralf Rivas
Who is Karl Chua, NEDA’s new acting secretary?
From the poster boy of TRAIN Law, Karl Chua is now tasked to plan how the economy will adjust to the new normal after the coronavirus pandemic

MANILA, Philippines – Finance Undersecretary Karl Kendrick Chua was appointed acting secretary of the National Economic and Development Authority after Ernesto Pernia resigned on Friday, April 17.

Chua’s appointment comes as the country struggles to deal with the coronavirus pandemic and the economy freedives into a recession. He will now play an important role in how businesses and the economy will adjust to the new normal.

Prior to the surprise appointment, the 41-year-old was the chief economist of the Strategy, Economics, and Results Group of the Department of Finance. The group is responsible for giving advice to the economic team and working on the fine print of key reforms from planning to implementation.

He is referred to by many as the “poster boy” of the Duterte administration’s tax reform agenda. 

Chua helped craft and fiercely defended the controversial tax reform for acceleration and inclusion or the TRAIN law. The law decreased personal income taxes, but raised excise tax on sweetened beverages and fuel. 

He said in previous interviews that the law gave people more disposable income to spend and lifted many out of poverty. Critics have repeatedly called for the repeal of the law.

He is also an advocate of the Corporate Income Tax and Incentives Rationalization Act, which aims to lower the corporate income tax rate and rationalize tax perks. Many businesses opposed the proposal, saying that it will scare away investors and lead to thousands of job losses.

Chua said the non-passage of the bill – not the proposal itself – was causing the uncertainties in the market.

Prior to joining government, he was the senior country economist of the World Bank office in Manila.

In an Inquirer article, Chua candidly said his mother called the move to leave the multilateral lender the most “stupid” decision he ever made. He had just celebrated his 10 years with the World Bank and had just gotten tenure when he left.

Chua completed his masters in economics in 2003 and doctorate in economics in 2011 at the University of the Philippines School of Economics. He specializes in fiscal policy and tax administration.

He was also a professional lecturer at the Ateneo de Manila University, where he taught mathematics and economics.

Chua was also a consultant for several local and development partnered-funded projects.

According to the DOF website, Chua’s first job was a systems analyst in Andersen Consulting/Accenture. – Rappler.com

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Ralf Rivas

A sociologist by heart, a journalist by profession. Ralf is Rappler's business reporter, covering macroeconomy, government finance, companies, and agriculture.