Diokno: SAP not needed anymore

As the economy recovers and full mobility is restored, livelihood subsidies or the social amelioration program had lost its significance, a government official said.

“The ayudas associated with the Covid-19 pandemic, such as in Bayanihan I and II, should cease as normalization is achieved and as we learn to live with the virus,” Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno said.

“These ayudas were justified when there were lockdowns and restricted mobility of citizens. But there are no more lockdowns, the President (Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.) has announced it himself in his State of the Nation Address,” the secretary added.

Moreover, he added that citizens are now free to move around since in-person schooling had returned.

Diokno said public finances are finite. “These have to be allocated judiciously for programs and projects that would result in the greatest benefit for the greatest number of citizens and the overall welfare,” he indicated.

“For example, there are new demands on public finances such as the recently approved law mandating higher assistance for indigent seniors,” he added.

Sectoral aid better
Diokno believes it is better to use public resources for indigent senior citizens if funds are available rather than releasing subsidies to the public.

The Commission on Audit said a total of P4.99 billion, or more than half of the funds allocated for loan distribution to micro, small and medium enterprises under the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act, or Bayanihan 2, was unused as of mid-2021 and could have been used for pandemic response.

In a March report, the Commission on Audit said the Small Business Corp, a state-run company under the Department of Trade and Industry, through its Covid-19 Assistance to Restart Enterprises Program, had been allocated P9.08 billion for use as collateral-free, zero-interest loans to MSME.

Meanwhile, Diokno said based on indicators, the economy has recovered from the effects of the unprecedented pandemic.

“It is now back to where it was before the Covid-19 crisis, with the opening of the economy and increasing mobility,” Diokno said.

“With the normalization, it is more appropriate to continue the existing social protection programs — the Department of Social Welfare and Development welfare grants for poor families with children of school age, support for senior citizens, assistance to displaced workers, etc.,” he added.

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