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NEDA defends economic advice to Duterte: Reforms typically non-populist

Socioeconomic planning Secretary Ernesto M. Pernia on Wednesday defended the economic policies that the country's economic managers have pressed President Rodrigo R. Duterte to implement.

"Our mandate is to give economic advice to the President," he said in a text message, noting that they have been pushing for reforms with long-term benefits.

"As expected, economic reforms are typically non-populist. Short-term satisfaction (often narrow) usually preferred to wider long-term benefits," he said.

This comes on the heels of a statement from leftist group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) warning Duterte that he should be wary of the "neoliberal triumvirate" of Pernia, Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III, and Budget and Management Secretary Benjamin M. Diokno.

According to BAYAN, the three secretaries "oppose Duterte's pro-people policies while continuing to uphold the discredited neoliberal macro-economic policies of the Aquino regime."

The statement follows the announcement of Malacañang that the President was still studying the proposed P2,000 pension hike of the Social Security System (SSS) as he was looking for a win-win solution to fulfill his promise.

Dominguez, Diokno, and Pernia, in December, however, said that the proposal to increase the SSS pension "may adversely affect the Republic's credit rating," and that the "SSS would be bankrupt with no funds for other members in the future."

Should the pension be increased, the Cabinet members recommended it be accompanied by an upward adjustment in the contribution rate of SSS members.

Diokno also on Tuesday said that the SSS and the Congress should spare Duterte the problem of having to decide whether to sign a legislated pension hike.

"The so-called economic managers oppose the SSS pension hike. They previously opposed the two-year ban on land conversion. They now want to raise the excise tax on oil products. It seems that they are systematically trying to undermine whatever pro-people and progressive policy pronouncement Duterte has in his government," BAYAN said.

Diokno was not immediately available for comment.

For its part, the Department of Finance (DOF) said the BAYAN statement is "skewed to misinform the public of why the tax reform is being put forth."

"First, we would like to remind that the basis of all the reforms the DOF and the economic team is pushing forward is the ten point socioeconomic agenda. This 10 point economic agenda is actually composed of social reforms that want to improve the social status of Filipinos to the likes of Malaysia by 2022 and Japan/Korea by 2040," Finance spokesperson Paola A. Alvarez said in a separate text message.

To recall, the economic team June last year presented the administration's 10-point socioeconomic agenda, centered on continuing macroeconomic policies, and adopting a comprehensive tax reform program.

"Second, the statement is unfair. It categorically maligns the economic managers to be without regard to the poor when in fact, the poor and working class are at the heart of the 10 point socioeconomic agenda," Alvarez said. —NB/BM, GMA News