MANILA, Philippines – The government will not impose new taxes other than the scheduled increase in sin taxes this year, said Malacañang on Thursday, January 2.
During a press briefing, Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr said President Benigno Aquino III is serious about keeping his promise that no new taxes would be imposed on the public without first addressing the corruption in the use of the national budget.
Public outrage was stoked in 2013 after an elaborate scheme siphoning billions of taxpayers’ money was unearthed. Janet Lim Napoles, allegedly the mastermind behind the pork barrel scam, is being investigated as are several lawmakers and government officials said to be involved.
The record of the administration shows that efficient use of resources allowed the government to increase the budget for social services without having to raise taxes, said Coloma.
The budgets of the Department of Social Welfare and Development, Health and Education departments increased from 2010 to 2014 without any increase in taxes. (READ: Aquino signs P2.265-T 2014 budget)
This allows the government to focus on its “tuwid na daan (straight path)” policy, added Coloma.
“The government remains focused and committed to attaining the goal of inclusive growth by creating more employment and extending social protection to the most needy,” he said.
More PPPs, reforms
The government will pursue more Public-Private Partnership (PPP) projects and reforms to attract investments and provide more jobs for Filipinos, Coloma stated.
The PPP program encountered delays, with only 7 projects bid out so far.
Coloma said major infrastructure projects will encourage more foreign investors to come to the Philippines.
To critics who say that the economic growth of the country is not felt by the people as shown by little changed poverty numbers, Coloma said structural reforms are on the way.
“We acknowledge that there are those who differ with us in the way they view the economy. As the President said in his New Year’s message—and I quote—‘Our minds remain open and we are always ready to listen to those with meaningful ideas and proposals that can help to expand and make permanent our reforms.'”
He said there is a natural learning curve and that investors would usually adjust before participating in the country’s economic activities.
Besides, “the interaction between the government and the investors is dynamic,” he said.
The National Economic Development Authority is set to come up with the results of the Philippine Development Plan to make a solid assessment of the country’s economic achievements so far.
Drop in business ranking
The Philippines’ drop in ranking in the 2013 list of Forbes’ Best Countries for Business is a learning opportunity and not a discouragement for the Palace, said Coloma.
The country ranked 90th out of 145 countries in the list, down from 87th place in the 2012 list.
“We view as a continuing challenge the need to improve our business processes,” Coloma said.
He gave assurances that the Palace would not be satisfied until the country moved as close as possible to the top of the list, beside its neighbors Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand. – Rappler.com
Philippine currency image from Shutterstock