Salceda: PH should now take economic “offensive” strategies

National, News

House Ways and Means Committee chairman. Albay 2nd district Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda, has urged the national government to take “offensive” strategies that will focus on revitalization to reverse the economic downturn the pandemic has triggered and boost national resilience.

Salceda said the government should be on the “attack” and not on the “defensive” position when it comes to economic opportunities by creating and attracting new industries and investments, new jobs and opportunities, new streams of revenue, and new approaches to boosting market confidence.

To be on the offensive side, Salceda once more called for the enactment of the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises (CREATE) Act, which has long been pending in Congress, and the implementation of the enhanced “Build, Build, Build” program.

A noted lawmaker-economist and author of a number of economic legislations in the Lower House, among them the stalled CREATE Act, Salceda issued a 34-point manifesto aimed to help President Duterte’s ‘defeat Covid-19’ program and rescue the economy, which he hopes the Chief Executive will include in his fifth State of the Nation Address (Sona) on Monday.

“These times call for courage. We cannot defeat this virus, nor the slump it has created in the economy, by hiding. We have done what are necessary to keep this pandemic from growing exponentially, he said.

Salceda noted that “despite serious constraints and limitations of our own means, epidemiological models suggest we may have prevented as much as much as 3.5 million infections by taking the necessary lockdown measures.” “Now, it is time to fight the economic downturn,” he added, warning that taking a purely defensive position to this virus and its economic impacts may not be the best approach to benefit the economy. “We cannot defeat the economic recession which will very likely happen, by trying to stop change,” he stressed.

“We can’t save every job. The economy has changed too much, but we can try to create more than one new job for every old job lost. And we can train people to fit these new jobs,” he pointed out and renewed his call for the passage of stalled economic reform bills in Congress designed to sustain the country’s “stable” credit ratings and continuously build the country’s stronger and more resilient trade and industry.

MOODY’S Investor Service has recently maintained its “Baa2” rating for the Philippines’ long-term local and foreign currency issuers and senior unsecured debts, with outlook maintained at “stable” despite its having downgraded 18 other countries, and having revised outlooks to “negative” for 27 countries.

The Philippines’ credit rating is seen as a vote of confidence on the country’s strong macroeconomic fundamentals amid unprecedented collapse of the global economy due to the Covid-19 pandemic. A Baa2 rating means a “high ability or acceptable ability to repay short term debts.”

Salceda said Moody’s report cites “proposed changes to the Foreign Investments Act, the Public Service Act and the Retail Trade Liberalization Act, as well as the remaining thrusts of the government’s Comprehensive Tax Reform Program” as reforms they are watching.

As principal author of all of these reform measures mentioned, Salceda said “we have to keep thinking hard about how to improve our systems and how to build an ecosystem that is conducive to economic innovation.”

He emphasized that the latest development is a sign that the Philippines will “bounce back very strongly” from the pandemic,  but these “fundamentals are not enough in a country’s long-term prospects,  and reversal of reforms that have supported prior gains in economic and fiscal strength would also likely lead to a downgrade.”

“Fundamentals, on their own, will not get us where we need to be. We have to leverage on our fundamentals. We have the youngest labor force in Asean. We can do even better by educating that labor force, so that we can have a young and very highly skilled workforce that is irresistible to global investments,” he said.

Moody’s credit rating report cited several reform proposals as reasons for keeping the country’s credit rating at Baa2, and the credit outlook to “stable,” despite the agency’s having downgraded 18 other countries, and having revised outlooks to “negative” for 27 countries.

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