Marcos' SONA laid out big plans but lacked strategic focus: analysts

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 26 2022 05:32 PM

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr ABS-CBN News
President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. delivers his first State of the Nation Address at the Batasan Complex on July 25, 2022. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA — President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. unveiled lofty economic goals in his first State of the Nation Address, but analysts raised concerns how his administration will reach these targets given the country's limited fiscal space.

According to Zy-za Suzara, executive director of policy think tank Institute for Leadership, Empowerment, and Democracy, Marcos offered a laundry list of targets without mentioning the major challenges, such as high unemployment rate and soaring inflation, hounding the country.

"There are a lot of problems there that need to be acknowledged so that they can be able to target properly and be able to allocate resources," she told ANC Tuesday.

She added, "The first question, logically, is solutions to what problems? It's as if he just went to a rundown of all of the things, all of the aspirations, the big promises that he wanted to do for the entirety of his administration but to me, it lacked a strategic focus."

In his speech Monday, Marcos vowed to slash poverty, rein in high food prices and boost renewable energy. He also wants children to get back into classrooms, ease the debt burden of farmers, and expand internet access. 

While Marcos' maiden SONA was heavy on numbers, an economics professor noted it lacked details on how the President will achieve his plans.

"We wanted to hear more about how he intends to reach those targets. What policies must be laid down in order to reach those targets?" Dr. JC Punongbayan, who teaches at the UP School of Economics, also told ANC.

This, amid an economy ravaged by the COVID-19 pandemic, the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine and supply chain disruptions that are driving food and oil prices.

Though Marcos outlined a package of reforms in different sectors, such as modernizing agriculture and expanding his predecessor's infrastructure program, Suzara asked how the projects would be financed.

"Curiously, there was no discussion about sources of financing in order to afford all of these aspirations, all of these investments that he talked about," she said.

Punongbayan noted the country’s debt level ballooned during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Inflation hit 6.1 percent in June, the highest level in nearly four years.

"There is really a need to tidy up the finances of the government," he added.

According to a recent Pulse Asia survey, controlling inflation is among the top concerns of Filipinos.

While Marcos laid out a medium-term fiscal program by imposing taxes on digital transactions and rightsizing the government, Suzara said these proposed measures are revenue neutral, which means "the government will not gain much in terms of taxation".

Both analysts also do not share the cautious optimism expressed by Marcos.

At the end of his 74-minute speech, the President said, "The state of the nation is sound".

For Suzara, "It's not as sound as the President would like to paint it to be."

She added, "Definitely, we have a lot of problems that we have to solve coming out of the pandemic and we're now facing a lot of new ones that will affect Filipinos and which will require the President to address in the coming months."

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—With a report from Agence France-Presse