Diokno: Pandemic ayuda a ‘waste of public funds’ – Philstar.com

MANILA, Philippines — Finance chief Benjamin Diokno has maintained that providing financial assistance or ayuda related to COVID should be stopped amid the country’s limited fiscal space.
Diokno emphasized that the country has “fully recovered,” thus the lack of need to give out any more ayuda to poor Filipino households.
“On the giving of ayuda in relation to the crisis, I think that should already be discounted because we have actually fully recovered and because of the limited fiscal space,” Diokno said.
“The giving out of ayuda in relation to the pandemic is already a waste of public funds,” he said.
Nonetheless, Diokno said other assistance such as social protection programs and aid for senior citizens should continue.
He said the government is already thinking of limiting the beneficiaries of ayuda to those who have the national ID as an incentive for those who have availed themselves of one.
“Only those with national ID should be entitled (to ayuda),” Diokno said, adding that previous aid distribution had a lot of leakage.
“The PSA (Philippine Statistics Authority) promised that they will produce at least 50 million national IDs by yearend, both printed and in mobile form. The most efficient way to do this is by requiring every citizen to have a national ID,” he said.
Meanwhile, research and advocacy group IBON Foundation hit the funding cuts for ayuda under the record P5.268-trillion proposed 2023 budget.
IBON said the 2023 budget defunds social protection even if millions still suffer the aftershocks of pandemic lockdowns and as economic rebound fades.
Huge cuts are in the social protection budgets for families and children, unemployment and housing.
IBON noted that the decreases were not offset by the additional allocation for conditional cash transfers, conflict-affected areas, old age, socially excluded, and sickness and disability.
“Slashing funds for social protection despite the unresolved pandemic and economic crisis shows the administration’s insensitivity to millions of Filipinos in distress and its deliberate intent to ignore the country’s glaring problems,” IBON said.
“A well-designed ayuda that will start to improve the situation of millions of Filipinos is both urgent and necessary and is not a waste of funds as the administration claims,” it said.
The group reiterated its proposal for a P1.5-trillion expansionary fiscal policy to uplift millions of Filipino families, arrest economic distress and spur economic recovery.
This includes emergency cash subsidies for 18 million poor and low-income families, immediate wage relief for workers, support for local producers and small businesses, financial assistance for informal earners, health and education support, and funding cash-for-work programs.
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