THE appointment of an insider as the new central bank governor and a stop to graft-prone government-to-government rice imports are among the good decisions made by President Rodrigo Duterte in his first year in office, according to analysts.
They however expressed some reservations on the Palace-backed tax reform bill pending in Congress as well as the administration’s ambitious P8-trillion infrastructure rollout, in a forum at the Ateneo Professional Schools in Makati City on Thursday.
Antonio La Viña, former dean of the Ateneo School of Government, said government-to-government rice importation was impractical and could lead to significant hikes in rice prices.
The National Food Authority Council’s decision to allow private imports instead was “arguably the most important decision so far that will affect everyone,” he told participants at the Ateneo “Change has Come” forum.
The analysts also lauded Duterte’s decision to appoint Nestor Espenilla Jr. as the new Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas governor, saying the central bank insider was “the best person” for the position.
Espenilla, who is credited for his steady hand over bank regulation and promotion of microfinance, has no connections with Duterte prior to the appointment, they noted.
While former president Benigno Aquino 3rd was criticized for appointing “relatives and friends,” Duterte’s appointments looked beyond his associates in Davao City and ex-classmates in San Beda College of Law.
La Viña lauded the commitment of the President to peace talks with Muslim rebels, but urged the Chief Executive to “move fast” and get a bilateral ceasefire because “without a ceasefire we cannot really progress too much.”
Analysts however foresee “challenges” to infrastructure development projects and economic reforms.
Commenting on the “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure rollout, expected to usher in a “golden age of infrastructure,” La Viña said a three-year rolling infrastructure program should be shielded from corruption.
Ateneo economist Alvin Ang said the proposed lowering of personal income tax rates would benefit “most of current taxpayers,” through exemption for those with incomes not exceeding P250,000 and reduced rates of 25 percent or below for a majority of wage earners.
The government however plans to impose higher taxes on petroleum products, automobiles, and sugary drinks and food, which could have an impact on the poor, he said.
“[When] you lower income tax rates and you charge more in terms of consumer goods, how will that affect prices?” Ang said.