NEDA chief: Gov’t must improve Filipinos’ access to basic services

The government must work to improve the Filipinos’ access to basic services with the correct programs in place, National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) Secretary Arsenio Balisacan said.

Appearing before the House of Representatives appropriations panel for the 2024 budget deliberations, Balisacan described the income equality in the country as “high” and “disturbing.”

“Income inequality in the country is quite high, and even more disturbing is the inequality in economic opportunities. I think we should be looking at that more closely,” the country’s Socioeconomic Planning chief said.

“When I say inequality, it is inequality in access to health, access to education, access to livelihood, access to housing programs. We must improve the access to basic services,” he added.

Balisacan issued the reply when Nueva Ecija Representative Ria Vergara called on the economic managers to come up with a progressive tax system, such as taxing luxury items like watches, to address the income inequality in the country.

Balisacan said that government programs in place address these main dimensions of inequality, and that the government should keep at it to make a dent.

Under the proposed P5.768 trillion national budget for 2024, the Marcos administration earmarked P112 billion for the Conditional Cash Transfer for the poor which is up from P102 billion in 2023.

Likewise, the proposed budget increased allocation for social pension for indigent senior citizens at P49 billion from P25 billion this year.

The proposal also has P9 billion for the national housing program and another P1.89 billion for food stamps program, among others.

“If we do these over time, we would see how it (inequality) would come down,” Balisacan said.

Balisacan also backed Vergara’s call for progressive taxation.

“I like your point on progressive taxation. I am in favor of it. Why are we taxing public utilities? Why don’t we tax luxury vehicles that add to the traffic jam?,” he said.

“These are the many things we can think about to improve access to social, economic and even political opportunities,” he added.–LDF,GMA Integrated News

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