Substantial progress attained on 1st Sulong’s recommendations

Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said Wednesday substantial progress has been achieved on the socioeconomic reform agenda crafted during the first Sulong Pilipinas workshop held before the Duterte administration took over last year, particularly on the primary goals of growing a robust middle class, putting more money in the pockets of wage earners and making the Philippines more attractive to investors.

Among the actionable recommendations that was later adopted as the zero-to-10-point socioeconomic reform agenda of the then incoming Duterte administration during the first Sulong workshop was the proposed Comprehensive Tax Reform Program (CTRP) that aims to support the government's ambitious infrastructure program, which the country direly needs to strengthen the country's poor logistics backbone and make the economy globally competitive, Dominguez said.

The (tax) reform package seeks to bring down corporate and personal tax rates closer to the regional average. This will help us build a strong middle class, encourage investments into our economy and put more disposable income in the pockets of wage earners, Dominguez said in his welcome remarks at the second Sulong Pilipinas national workshop held at the EDSA Shangrila Hotel in Mandaluyong City.

According to Dominguez, tax reform will enable government to undertake a massive infra program amounting to 7.4 percent of gross domestic product [GDP] without breaking the limits of fiscal discipline.

For the second Sulong workshop, Dominguez said he expects micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), which comprise 99.6 percent of the country's total business enterprises and employ 63.7 percent of the work force, to have a stronger voice in the forum.

Government policies must be squarely behind your success, Dominguez said.

He said that while the first Sulong forum held in Davao City has proven to be an effective mechanism in providing all sectors a voice in shaping state policy, those who were involved in helping draw up the socioeconomic reform agenda should likewise actively support this strategy to move it forward.

Dominguez referred specifically to the CTRP, which, he said, is necessary to achieve genuine economic inclusion, as it would, among others, help build 113,553 classrooms for public school children and hire 181,980 more teachers.

The CTRP is also crucial in improving the country's national gravel roads, irrigating 1.3 million hectares of agricultural land and providing road access for 7,894 isolated barangays and 23,293 isolated sitios.

It will also enable the government to upgrade 704 hospitals and establish 25 new ones, achieve 100 percent PhilHealth coverage with higher quality services, upgrade 263 rural and urban health units to disaster-resilient facilities and hire an additional 176,922 health professionals, Dominguez said.

Tax reform, according to Dominguez, will likewise help support the infrastructure program we so direly need to keep pace with our neighbors, improve efficiency in the movement of goods and people, and prepare our economy to thrive in a more competitive setting.

Moreover, Dominguez said the CTRP will help fund socioeconomic programs such as the Targeted Cash Transfers for the bottom 50 percent of the population; Pantawid Pasada and the Public Utility Vehicle (PUV) Modernization Program, which will benefit PUV drivers and commuters; andPantawid Kuryente for small electricity consumers.

The CTRP will likewise help finance the proposed National ID System which will also serve as social welfare cards for those qualified to avail themselves of targeted cash transfers and other social benefits.

The economic program of this administration aspires to achieve a regime of high growth. Our economic policies seek to make that growth more inclusive in the next few years as we enable our economy to be investments-led. By the end of this administration, we expect to bring down poverty incidence to just 14 percent, Dominguez said.

The first Sulong Pilipinas workshop was spearheaded on June 20 and 21 last year by Dominguez to help guide the incoming administration, in partnership with business leaders, representatives of stakeholder groups and civil society organizations, on its path to reform.

Sulong Pilipinas 2016 was a very productive exercise. From the vigorous discussions, we arrived at the zero-to-ten point socio economic program of reform adopted by the then incoming Duterte administration. We likewise produced a list of 'actionable recommendations.' As we will see from the reports later on, there have been substantial accomplishments on those recommendations, Dominguez said.

The finance chief said growth has remained high, with the economy expanding 6.4 percent in the first quarter of 2017 and the manufacturing sector posting a 7.5 percent year-on-year growth, since the Duterte administration took over and started implementing its socioeconomic reform agenda.

We hope this pattern will continue, Dominguez said.

Source: Department of Finance

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