Measures to keep inflation at bay

 

 

By Rose de la Cruz

 

Concerned with the continued upward movement of food prices—which would accelerate further with the coming Christmas season—the economic team has proposed several measures to keep inflation (which in October was at 6.7 percent) at bay.

 

In a statement, the economic team said it is mindful that much attention must be given to food, which remains to be the major contributor to inflation even as its price decelerates. To hasten the decline in consumer prices, the government must continue enforcing mitigating measures, particularly interventions in the food supply, one of which is rice.

 

Timely imports

 

To compensate for the lost harvest in typhoon-affected areas, rice imports should be closely monitored to ensure that their timely arrival.

 

The country’s rice imports, along with the rice inventory of the National Food Authority (NFA), continue to improve with the completion of the Philippines’ government-to-government procurement and the first phase of 2018 Minimum Access Volume.

 

The National Single Window System must be efficiently operationalized to ensure fast and efficient processing of imports. Restructuring the NFA would also bodes well for the further streamlining of the processes of rice importation.

 

The team called on concerned government agencies, especially the Department of Agriculture, to speed up initiatives to distribute seed buffer stocks for rice, as well as corn and other high-value crops, in disaster-stricken areas in time for the planting season this November to January.

 

Rice production

 

Interventions in rice production should be supported by policies that will further ease food supply, which remains crucial as demand for food items is expected to increase with the onset of the holiday season. Congress must pass the long-overdue amendments to the Agricultural Tariffication Act, which is expected to reduce rice prices by PhP2.00 to as much as PhP7.00 per kilo.

 

It said that other regions of the country should be tapped to cover for the limited supply of other key agricultural products while farm areas in Luzon are still undergoing recovery. Releasing of essential food items from ports, relaxing the Metro Manila Development Authority’s truck ban – particularly for the delivery of food – and increasing the number of retail outlets for agricultural products and basic commodities should be prioritized.

 

More focus on agri, fisheries

 

Setting our sights on longer horizons, more should be done to ensure price stability of food products. The government needs to pay closer attention to the agriculture and fisheries sector to significantly increase productivity and to be more competitive and resilient to weather-related and man-made shocks.

 

The team asked the Filipino people, especially the private sector, to support the government’s initiatives to improve the quality of life for all—as the economic team remains committed to its task of maintaining a stable price environment to sustain our country’s economic growth.

 

More suggestions

 

Rep. Henry Ong, 2nd district of Leyte, called for the suspension of the Bureau of Internal Revenue regulation implementing the fuel excise taxes of 2018 and 2019.

 

As chair of the House Committee on Banks and Financial Intermediaries Ong said the TRAIN law had lots of good intentions. It took effect in a perfect storm of high world oil prices and peso depreciation versus the US dollar so the 3-in-1 mix is what led to the economic mess we are in today. Both the fuel excise taxes this year and next year must be stopped.

 

Minimum wage

 

Rep. Ron Salo, Kabayan partylist, said the new P25 minimum wage hike in Metro Manila “will lift some of the financial burden resulting from inflation since last April.”

 

"If a minimum daily wage earner works 20 days in a month, the P25 increase means about P500 for the month. Critics would say that it is too little. Yet, 500 pesos is still 500 pesos and it helps our workers recover some of the purchasing power consumers lost when inflation rose," Salo said.

 

He added that “the wage increase is in addition to the efforts of the government in improving rice supply and greater access of the poor to discounted basic goods."

 

"We hope that the Wage Boards in other regions will also immediately follow in issuing the new wage increases to benefit our workers in the countryside," Salo added.

 

He and the late Kabayan partylist Rep. Ciriaco Calalang are the authors of House Bill 7527 seeking to legislate a nationwide minimum daily wage of P600.

 

Salo said, KABAYAN Party-list’s P600 minimum wage proposal is realistic because it is much closer to the current P537.00 NCR daily wage.

 

“P600 is a proposal, not just to our colleagues here in Congress, but also to the wage boards. We also invite the DOLE and its wage boards to recommend measures they deem are needed to update and upgrade the powers of the regional wage boards,” Salo said.

 

He pointed out that the law which created the wage boards, was enacted way back in 1988 or 30 years ago, and already requires updating in order to make it more responsive to the needs of the labor sector and the employers.

 

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