Biz groups to Congress: Spend con-con budget on priority projects

A number of business aggrupations has urged members of Congress and the national government to shift the budget for the proposed constitutional convention (con-con) to priority projects and measures that will better address the challenges confronting the country.

In a joint statement, the Filipina CEO Circle, the Financial Executive Institute of the Philippines, Justice Reform Initiative, Makati Business Club, Philippine Women’s Economic Network, Inc. and Women Business Council Philippines said the financial cost of con-con based on National Economic and Development Authority’s (NEDA) estimate would be between PHP14 billion to PHP28 billion, which funds could be spent on pro-people programs.

As proposed by House Bill 7352, some 300 con-con delegates will get P10,000 per day, or a total of P3 million per day, or P400 million for seven months. This amount, they pointed out, could be invested in various social programs of the government.

“We believe these funds can be better used in agriculture to address the high inflation, transportation to enable Filipinos to get to work and home in much less time, and needed social services like health, education, and social security,” the business groups said.

Citing data from the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), the groups said the low-end budget for con-con at P14 billion is higher than the proposed budget for school buildings (P13.9 billion), farm-to-market roads (P13.1 billion), Rice Comprehensive Enhancement Fund (P10 billion), basic education facilities (P9.8 billion), computerization program for public schools (P8.9 billion), agricultural machineries, equipment and facilities (P5.9 billion), and budget for 10,000 additional teachers (P2.7 billion).

They added that the recent reforms of the government, such as the amendments to the Public Service Act, Foreign Investment Act and the Retail Trade Liberalization Act can achieve substantial economic gains, which political debate can derail. The business groups said these economic reforms have addressed the top concerns of the business community.

“We believe these reforms, combined with President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr.’s efforts to revive local and foreign investment, can accelerate recovery and job growth at a time when the Philippines and the world face serious economic headwinds. Investors look for stability when making investment decisions. The possibly lengthy and fractious process of amending the Constitution may make investors take a wait-and-see attitude for an extended period of time and therefore derail the impact of the reforms,” they said.

They added the Congress can instead focus on economic and other legislations, such as the two tax reform bills and the Ease of Paying Taxes bill.

“We believe these can greatly enhance government revenue and job creation at this critical time,” the groups said.