PBBM has fiscal options for rapid growth, P180-B in non-tax sources

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has several fiscal options to enable the country’s rapid growth and sustain recovery from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Among them is a choice to mobilize at least P180 billion in non-tax sources that are not in the Budget of Expenditures and Sources of Funding, according to Albay 2nd District Rep. Joey Salceda.

Speaking at the recent “1st SGV Tax Symposium: The Future of Tax SGV” at a hotel in Makati, Salceda said there are funds available for the President to deploy for the country to fight inflation, take the first steps toward food security, and ensure economic recovery.

Salceda pointed out that among the non-tax sources are equity withdrawals from government financial institutions after the purpose of such infusions had lapsed under the Bayanihan to Recover As One Act for response and recovery interventions.

President Marcos can also draw from the discontinuance of undistributed unconditional cash transfers from the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Act, sale of gas from the Malampaya field in Palawan to the Ilijan Combined-Cycle Power Plant in Batangas, and privatization of the defunct Legazpi Domestic Airport.

“PBMM can also undertake a cash sweep similar to what former President Rodrigo Duterte did in 2019, privatization of casinos under Pagcor (Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation), and streamlining and re-nationalization of approvals for reclamation projects,” added Salceda the chair of the Committee on Ways and Means.

Salceda said public-private partnerships are also likely to make resurgence as Marcos directed legislation of new frameworks while the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas can increase its dividends to the national government, due to realized revaluation gains on foreign currency assets as the peso’s value hit near-record-lows this year.

However, Salceda said new taxes still need to be imposed to support an aggressive national infrastructure program, which is still the best form of public investment.

“Our tax makeup is also still heavily on income, at around 53 percent of total internal revenue take. We need to increase our share of tax revenues from taxes on bad habits, like pre-mixed alcoholic beverages, gambling, mining, and other areas which are now in the agenda of the House tax committee,” he explained.

Salceda said the House is already discussing its ways forward in ensuring that the Philippines receives its just share of taxes from global transactions, citing the effects digitalization and cross-border transactions that have made it harder for traditional tax policies to collect revenues.

The tax panel, he said, will provide fiscal space for “Marcosian-sized” public investment programs, which will make sure the President has enough fiscal space to pursue more ambitious projects.

“We need big visions from President Marcos. His surname evokes largeness. Marcosian means massive. Things like a bridge from Matnog to Allen, from Guimaras to Iloilo, from Mindanao to Leyte. Of course, the larger the vision, the larger the fiscal space needed. My committee will do its best to give him that need,” Salceda said.

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