5 Economic Milestones From Duterte’s First Year of Presidency
Whether you love him or you hate him, the fact remains that the current President of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte is more than his infamous and highly criticized, War on Drugs.
From a game changing plan to ramp up infrastructure projects and tax reform to benefit Filipinos especially the middle class and the poor, to more economic ties with neighboring countries.
His supporters would argue that there’s more to Duterte than his controversial rhetorics and even more to his actions than meet the eyes.
As we reach the end of his first year of presidency, let us take a look at how the economic and financial landscape of the Philippines has changed thus far.
Lesser income tax burden
The tax reform program of Duterte’s administration was introduced to encourage a fairer, simpler, and more efficient tax system for everyone.
One of its main highlights is the huge reduction of the income tax burden for the working class.
Once it is implemented, Filipinos who are earning less than ₱250,000 annually will be tax free and the others from higher income brackets will also have lesser tax obligations.
This tax reform will basically provide bigger take home pay for all the working class in the country.
The tax rates in the proposed reform will be decreasing gradually in the coming years and it will be implemented in the second half of 2017 up until 2019. The tax income in 2020 and onward are expected to be even lower!
Free tertiary education
One of the long-standing concerns of many Filipino families is to provide tertiary education to their children. Not all families in the country can afford tertiary education for their children after high school, especially if they come from public educational institutions. The following programs address this concern:
Executive order on free tuition in SUCs
One of the groundbreaking feat by Duterte in his first year is the Executive Order on free tuition fees for all state universities in the country which was allocated with a budget of ₱8.3 billion. This was immediately acted upon by the Commission on Higher Education (CHED). On the April 20, 2017, they have released a memorandum on free tuition fee grant in state universities and colleges (SUCs) for the school year 2017- 2018. Together with it is the list of the state universities where these tuition fee grants can be availed by students.
Free tuition fee bill
For now, the free tuition fee in state universities is only good for school year 2017- 2018 because the actual bill hasn’t been passed yet. However, the House of Representatives recently approved on third and final reading of this bill which also seeks to strengthen the Unified Student Financial Assistance System (UniFAST). It has now moved up to its final phase – the approval of the President.
Its future (as well as the students’) seems to be bright ahead as Duterte is a well-known advocate of pro-poor initiatives and lawmakers are also optimistic that he will approve the bill before his State of the Nation Address (SONA ) on July 24, 2017.
Better foreign economic ties
Whether you agree with his independent foreign policy or not, we can’t deny the fact that it has brought a lot of interesting deals to the country. He didn’t just open our doors to China, he also welcomed our neighboring countries in Asia and even Russia.
After all, it wasn’t just about China, but it was about whoever could give us the best deal. Besides, countries who are more progressive than the Philippines, like Singapore and Malaysia, also have economic ties with China, and that didn’t stop them from progressing.
Duterte’s decision to stop being a full-time lackey to the US has made the Philippines into a truly independent and sovereign nation. At the start of his term, the country saw two geopolitical giants such as Japan and China compete over winning the Philippines.
Despite what his staunch critics are saying, the US remains to be a geopolitical ally of the Philippines. But this time, there are three more global economic leaders who are behind us – China, Russia, and Japan.
A huge fraction of the investments from our country’s newly found alliances were geared towards improving the infrastructure of the country. It provided the necessary resources and momentum to make Duterte’s highly ambitious infra-projects happen, which comes with the slogan…
Build! Build! Build!
At the heart of Duterte’s economic (Dutertenomics) agenda is its highly ambitious Build! Build! Build! Infrastructure program.
Despite economic growth, the country’s infrastructure are still underdeveloped. Dutertenomics aims to address that.
While this program isn’t in full swing yet until next year, it is off to a promising start as the administration unveiled earlier this year its blueprint for the up and coming infrastructure projects until 2022. Showcasing the flagship projects of the Duterte administration, the blueprint has been coined the “The Golden Age of Infrastructure” of the country by NEDA chief Ernesto Pernia.
Cost and funding
This infrastructure program is worth ₱8 trillion and is expected to increase its share to GDP from a projected 5.4% this year to 7.4% by 2022. Aside from the official development assistance (ODA) from foreign governments and multilateral institutions, it is also backed by a tax reform program to raise funds for new highways, bridges, ports, train lines and airports.
Creating more jobs
More projects mean more jobs for the people. It is expected to create a lot of employment opportunities for Filipinos. In fact, the 75 projects under the President’s “build build build” list will create two million jobs annually. And, even at its early stage, construction companies are already having a hard time looking for laborers, according to Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno.
The Build Build Build program comes with its own online portal, which lists down high impact projects that are envisioned to boost the productive capacity of the country’s economy, create more jobs, increase income, and strengthen the investment climate for a sustained inclusive growth.
The best part about it is that it comes with a real-time tool where projects can be monitored and tracked by anyone. Hence, Filipinos can expect a more transparent government in the coming years.
Freedom of Information (FoI)
Do you think your local government is corrupt? You now have the right to know where your taxes are going! At the start of his term, Duterte signed an Executive Order for the Freedom of Information Order. The executive order established the first Freedom of Information (FOI) law in the Philippines covering all government offices under the Executive Branch.
This gives everyone the right to scrutinize every transaction that the government does, with the exception to the following:
- Information covered by executive privilege
- Privileged information relating to national security, defense or international relations
- Information concerning law enforcement and protection of public and personal safety
- Information deemed confidential for the protection of the privacy of persons and certain individuals such as minors, victims of crimes, or the accused
- Information, documents or records known by reason of official capacity and are deemed as confidential, including those submitted or disclosed by entities to government agencies, tribunals, boards, or officers, in relation to the performance of their functions, or to inquiries or investigation conducted by them in the exercise of their administrative, regulatory of quasi-judicial powers.
- Prejudicial premature disclosure
- Records of proceedings or information from proceedings which, pursuant to law or relevant rules and regulations, are treated as confidential or privileged
- Matters considered confidential under banking and finance laws, and their amendatory laws
- Other exceptions to the right to information under laws, jurisprudence, rules and regulations
Just recently, data from the World Bank’s Global Economic Prospect report ranks the Philippines as the 10th fastest growing economy globally, with projected annual growth at 6.9% for the years 2017 and 2018.
This impressive growth can be credited to the country’s expansionary fiscal policy which has boosted the capital formation and the robust remittances, low inflation rate, and credit growth which supported private consumption.
Whether or not this will eventually be translated on the ground have yet to be seen.
It’s been 365 days since Duterte took the office as the President of the Philippines. It’s still too early to conclusively judge his initiatives. Every policy has its pros and cons, and Duterte as a leader has his job cut out for him to keep the balance and implement programs and projects that will benefit the majority and those who need the help the most.
On the outset, some policies seem good and highly beneficial for the average Filipino, like the free tuition fee and FoI, while some have yet to bear fruit. These milestones that he has achieved in his first year are blueprints of what’s yet to come.