August 29, 2022

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Little justification for COVID aid — DoF 

CORONAVIRUS financial aid is less of a priority for the Marcos administration as it wants to divert its limited funds to other existing social protection programs, the government’s Finance chief said on Monday. 

“The Philippine economy has recovered from the unprecedented pandemic,” Finance Secretary Benjamin E. Diokno told reporters in a Viber message. “It is now back to where it was before the COVID-19 crisis, with the opening of the economy and increasing mobility.” 

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

Under the P5.268-trillion proposed national budget for 2023, P2.071 trillion or 39.3% will go to social services. But the allocations for the DSWD and Labor department fell by 3.8% and 48.3%, respectively. 

The ratio of the country’s debt to economic output stood at 62.1% at the end of June. While lower than a month earlier it was still above the 60% threshold prescribed by multilateral lenders for developing economies. 

Much of the debt, which hit P12.79 trillion at the end of June, was spurred by a surge in government borrowings to finance its pandemic response. 

Mr. Diokno said aid given at the height of the pandemic should cease as the situation normalizes and “as we learn to live with the virus.” 

In his first address to Congress on July 25, President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. said there would no longer be lockdowns, citing the need to balance people’s health and economic revival 

“Public finances are finite,” Mr. Diokno said. “They 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.” — Diego Gabriel C. Robles