10 June 2015


With sustained economic growth, Philippines will completely eliminate poverty within a generation, says economist
(BAGAC, Bataan) The country’s economic growth is so high that if sustained, it could completely eliminate poverty within a generation, an economist has said.

During a press conference here, World Bank lead economist Rogier van den Brink was asked if the World Bank is changing its projections because of the Philippines’ lower-than-expected gross domestic product (GDP) growth in the first quarter.

Van den Brink said that whether it is 7 percent, 6 percent or 5 percent, the Philippines remains on the top league in the world. He said his home country Holland has not grown at 5 percent.

“So, what matters a lot is how that growth reaches the poor. And in that front, we’ve seen since 2013 a definite change in the pattern of growth,” he said.

Before 2013, it was difficult to see how the economic growth was reducing poverty but since 2013, there have been very reliable source of data, such as household survey and labor survey data, that all show the same thing, he noted.

Underemployment and poverty are going down and the income at the bottom is growing at 20 percent or 30 percent faster that the rest of the country, van den Brink said.

“So if you keep growing in this range, let’s say the 5, 6 percent range in this sort of pattern, if this growth remains, you can reduce poverty completely within a generation,” he stressed.

“That’s how high these growth rates are and that’s how the direction of this growth has been changing in the last years.”

Sluggish government spending has limited the growth of the Philippine economy during the first quarter of the year to 5.2 percent, the slowest since 2012.

The country’s first-quarter GDP growth was down from the 6.6 percent expansion posted in the fourth quarter of last year, as well as from the 5.6 percent growth rate registered during the January to March 2014 period.

Delegates of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) are here to discuss fiscal transparency, aiming to achieve inclusive growth in the Asia-Pacific region. PND (as)

Philippines posting gains from open data system
(BAGAC, Bataan) The Philippines may be new to the open data system but it is already making progress and is now gaining the fruits of this modern system.

Budget and Management Undersecretary Richard Moya, in a briefing on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) workshop held here Tuesday, said the country is still in the transition period of digitizing government data.

Moya however said that based on initial assessments, “we went well on the barometers.”

He did not elaborate on when the first assessment was made but noted that in the next assessment, “we saw significant improvement.”

President Benigno S. Aquino III, during an event in Google New York in September 2011, announced his intention to use the open government system for the Philippines, citing that “where there is no openness on the part of government, there can be no unity of purpose and action between the people and their leaders.”

“Where government is open with its people, there you will find national solidarity: of purpose, and of action,” he said.

The Philippine Government Electronic Procurement System (PHILGEPS) was established in line with the government’s open data or open government bid.

The PHILGEPS website, www.data.gov.ph, provides information about the various government program of the agency and bidding activities, which can be downloaded.

The website contains infographics that would make data more understandable for everyone.

Moya said the open data system ensures transparency since it makes the government accountable for the use of public funds.

He disclosed that due to this system, two public schools have been closed and ordered to transfer to a safer site after they were found to be sitting directly on top of a fault line.

“It does not only allow transparency but better service, as well,” he added.

Meanwhile, World Bank Philippines’ lead economist Rogier van den Brink, said open data enables the public to analyze government data.

“It gives you the power to assess the data being released by the government,” he said.

Van den Brink explained that a modern society could only be achieved if there is direct accountability between citizens and political leaders.

He disclosed that in his country, Holland, about 700 public records have been released so far.

He noted that previously, it was difficult to get information from the government.

“It opened huge and new opportunities,” he added. PNA (js)

Government testing online bidding process
(BAGAC, Bataan) The Department of Budget and Management (DBM), through a tie-up with the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), is in the final stages of piloting an online bidding process that will give contractors and bidders more opportunities to join the bidding for government projects.

Online bidding will allow bidders and contractors to submit their documents through the Internet, benefiting those who are based in the provinces, Undersecretary Richard Moya of the DBM said Tuesday.

The process can be accessed through <philgeps.com> .

“They are just pilot testing it in DPWH. If it works in the DPWH, we will mainstream it across all philgeps,” he said, adding that the department will complete the tests this month.

Moya said the bidding has two stages: the submission of pertinent documents; and the submission of the financials.

“With this one, you pre-load all your documents digitally online so that when you join a bidding, all your feasibility documents have already been verified. This would reduce the time,” he said.

He however noted that contractors cannot simply make a bid, they have to register and pay a fee of P5,000, which covers a year.

The online bidding is a reform initiated by the government, Moya said, acknowledging however that the process faces legal, technical and cultural impediments.

All the results will be published online for everyone to access, he said.

Delegates of member economies of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) on Tuesday discussed fiscal management through transparency and reforms. The overall goal is to attain good governance that results in inclusive growth in the region. PND (as)

People, government must work together to achieve fiscal transparency, says advocate
(BAGAC, Bataan) Achieving fiscal transparency requires concerted efforts on the part of the people, the government, and civil society organizations, the head of a global network on fiscal transparency has said.

“If you want an open government, if you want open budgets to have an impact, you need not expect government disclosing information but a civil society having access to those information and make it meaningful, use it and take government to account,” Juan Pablo Guerrero, network director of the Global Initiative for Fiscal Transparency (GIFT), said during a press conference here Tuesday.

“The rule is very basic. They are not a government that is honest, if you don’t have a demanding civil society requesting for that honesty, that efficiency, the delivery of government that really addresses the people’s needs, you don’t achieve transparency,” he said.

Guerrero, from Mexico was one of the participants in the ongoing Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Workshop on Fiscal Management Through Transparency and Reforms.

He noted that there must be training for the people, as well as for public officials.

“You need to help the people understand that the budget is their money — basically, the money that originated in civil society, but it has technicalities, it has complexities,” he said.

He further urged advocates of fiscal transparency to work with people in government, explaining that the goal is for them to disclose information in a way that is meaningful and relevant and addresses the specific interests of the people.

At the same time, he said, there must be a sense of ownership by the people, so that the government works with honesty.

He also pointed out the importance of media coverage as it raises awareness among the people on how public funds are spent.

The people must realize that the funds being used by the government actually originated from their taxes, he said.

He however observed that it takes time for the people to understand how this works.

“It takes some time for training, some time for the people to really assume this right to information and the right to participation in public policies, decisions and acts that affect them,” Guerrero said.

The long-term goal of GIFT, he said, is to have a transparent system that people in the Asia-Pacific region could adopt.

“We would like to work in the Philippines, in Indonesia or in Vietnam, the way we’re working in Brazil, in Paraguay, in Bolivia or in Venezuela — countries where transparency is still, to some extent, just a word, a dream and not close to reality,” he said.

The GIFT is a multi-stakeholder action network working to advance and institutionalize global norms to improve fiscal transparency, and people’s participation, as well as advance accountability in countries around the world. PND (as)

Expert says Philippines must abolish bank secrecy law to effectively fight corruption, money laundering
(BAGAC, Bataan) The Philippines must adopt the international standards on financial transparency and abolish its bank secrecy law to effectively fight money laundering, tax evasion and corruption, an expert said on Wednesday.

“I think the key challenge for tax administration globally, in the Philippines or everywhere in dealing with money launderers, in dealing with tax evaders, in dealing with corruption, is information,” said Richard Parry, head of the Global Relations Division of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) Center for Tax Policy and Administration.

“First of all, having enough information to be able to detect what is going on, to detect fraudsters, to detect criminals in financial areas and in tax areas,” Parry said during a press conference here, following the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) workshop session on international tax transparency and cooperation.

He noted that international standards revolve around the exchange of information on request, and the automatic exchange of information.

Parry explained that exchange of information on request means that government authorities can ask another country to provide information, for example, on a particular taxpayer with a bank account in that country.

The other country’s authorities will provide that information, which the country making the request could use for tax investigations, he added.

Parry said the automatic exchange of information significantly adds to that.

What the automatic exchange of information does is exchange information on taxpayers, who may be tax residents in the Philippines but whose respective home countries have a legal agreement with the Philippines for exchange of information.

“So the Philippines needs to be engaged in that process. You need to have legislation in place, which meets the level standards, which means the abolition of bank secrecy,” he said, noting that that is a fundamental aspect of the implementation of that standard.

The bank secrecy law is superfluous, he observed, mentioning a G20 remark in 2009 stating that bank secrecy is dead or dying.

He added that if the Philippines wants to implement that standard, it can exchange information with other countries on the basis of the things he suggested.

Implementing such policy would lead to significant gains with regard to legitimate tax charges in the Philippines, Parry said.

He pointed out that it would also provide the Philippines the revenue and resources that it needs to build its social programs and to deal with issues without relying much on Official Development Assistance (ODA) from other countries.

“So that’s a very important basis to international developments and growth and that is to have a proper tax system. You need to have an exchange of information and the abolishment of bank secrecy,” he said. PND (as)

Lack of planning, coordination hinder aggressive spending on big ticket projects
(BAGAC, Bataan) An International Monetary Fund (IMF) official on Tuesday spelled out major issues that hinder aggressive spending on major projects by developing countries such as the Philippines, and suggested measures to address them.

In a press conference, Shanaka Jayanah Peiris, IMF resident representative to the Philippines, said the Fund is doing a study on 25 countries and is making recommendations on how to best deal with the issue in the future for both the emerging markets and advanced economies.

Peiris is one of the participants in the ongoing Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) workshop on fiscal management through transparency and reforms being held here.

“The key finding we had is that in most countries, in emerging markets and developing countries, the real bottleneck in public investment is lack of planning, big planning in investment projects, the complexity of managing and monitoring projects so that your projects will be flexible enough to deal with those,” he said, emphasizing the need for better coordination between local governments and the central government, which is seen as a major issue, even in advanced economies.

Peiris further noted that countries must pay attention to project selection and appraisal, which require proper management, as well as coming up with a mechanism to monitor the implementation of the project.

He indicated that the absence of an organic budget law in the Philippines, has led to problems in the execution of projects.

The framework is not very well spelled out in the expenditure in the budget law since the Philippines does not have an organic law, he said.

He however welcomed a public financial management bill being proposed by congressmen that would put in place a better framework for the execution of projects and management of public funds.

According to Peiris, one of the topics they discussed in the APEC workshop was infrastructure development.

The discussion dealt with greater public infrastructure investment, such as arrangements involving public-private partnerships (PPPs) to have a more inclusive growth in the Asia-Pacific region. PND (as)