The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) ruled out giving a one-time inflation aid of P50,000 to all workers, saying the country was already providing assistance to the poorest of the poor.
Socioeconomic Secretary Arsenio Balisacan made the statement after a think tank on Tuesday blasted as patronage politics Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri’s move to provide a P50,000 inflation assistanxe to each of the Senate’s 3,000 employees, adding that such help should be given to everyone.
Balisacan said giving everyone the same inflationary assistance treatment would be “not feasible,” citing the country’s “limited fiscal space.” He also said the government was also addressing inflation.
“It’s not feasible for everyone to be given the same treatment, because as you know, our fiscal space is very, very limited. And so, we are taking a two-pronged approach. Make sure that we are able to address where the inflation is coming from and that is what we are addressing as of now,” he said.
“(And) for those who are really affected adversely, especially the very poor and vulnerable groups, they will get the needed assistance from us,” Balisacan said.
IBON Foundation’s executive director, Sonny Africa, told ABS-CBN’s TeleRadyo that increasing the inflation allowance for the Senate’s 3,000 employees was a political choice.
He said both chambers of Congress increased their own budgets for 2023 while other programs such as the conditional cash transfer for the country’s poorest families have suffered budget cuts.
“If you want to do it, there are many ways. If you don’t, there are many excuses,” Africa said in Filipino. “While they were increasing their own budget, they slashed the budget for social assistance programs. Even the flagship 4Ps was slashed by more than P4 billion and assistance to the poor has been cut.”
Zubiri’s announcement, he said, was “institutionalized patronage on full display” and said the larger question was not how the Senate was able to get funds for its employees, but what the government is doing to help those who lost their jobs during the extended COVID-19 lockdowns and that are still struggling to make ends meet due to rising inflation.
“The government is there for everyone. If anyone has a right to assistance, it should be because they are poor, not because they know a senator, congressman, mayor or governor. Everyone should be equal. If they are in need, give them help,” he said.
Balisacan said the government was ramping up digitalization as a way of ensuring that the limited assistance is delivered to those who are really in need.
He said the government is doing its best to help the indigent badly affected by the soaring inflation.
Balisacan nevertheless noted that the Marcos administration is considering another round of annual salary increases for government employees.
However, talk about the planned salary hike is “still premature,” he said.
He said the government is also optiistic that inflation will ease “in the coming months.”
The country’s headline inflation rate in January 2023 ticked up to 8.7 percent from 8.1 percent in December 2022, according to the recent Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) report.
Based on the PSA report, the January 2023 inflation was mainly driven by increases in housing rentals, electricity and water rates, as well as in the prices of vegetables, milk, eggs, fruits and nuts.
On Feb. 7, President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. said he hoped that the drop in the prices of fuel and imported agricultural products would help tame inflation.”
Balisacan earlier said the government has identified measures to keep food price movements consistent with the government’s inflation and food security objectives, with higher agricultural productivity, food supply augmentation and energy security seen as priorities to temper upward price pressures.