Marcos bats for digital tax, solar power in 8% growth push

·3-min read
MANILA, PHILIPPINES - JULY 25: Philippine President Ferdinand
MANILA, PHILIPPINES - JULY 25: Philippine President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. delivers his first State of the Nation Address before lawmakers at the House of Representatives on July 25, 2022 in Manila, Philippines. Marcos Jr., the son and namesake of disgraced dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr., laid down his plans for the country still reeling from the effects of the pandemic and soaring inflation. (Photo by Ezra Acayan/Getty Images)

By Andreo Calonzo and Ditas Lopez

Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. pushed to tax digital services, pledged to sustain robust spending on infrastructure and vowed never to enforce another lockdown to hit an 8% growth during his term.

“Our tax system will be adjusted in order to catch up with the rapid development of the digital economy,” Marcos said in his first speech before Congress on Monday, laying down his legislative agenda that includes a continuing tax reform, changes to energy and infrastructure-enabling laws, and streamlining government operations.

Imposing value-added tax on digital services, which is Marcos’s first revenue-generating proposal, will yield an initial 11.7 billion pesos ($208.6 million) in revenue in 2023 if passed by Congress, he said. Boosting collections, also by simplifying and automating tax processes, would help cut debt below 60% of gross domestic product by 2025 and narrow the budget deficit to 3% of GDP by 2028, he said.

The Southeast Asian nation aims to expand GDP by 6.5%-7.5% this year and grow by as much as 8% through the end of his term in 2028, Marcos said, reiterating projections made by his economic team earlier this month. The last time the Philippines recorded growth above 8% was in 1976 under the late dictator Marcos Sr., the president’s father and namesake.

While the Philippines remains one of Asia’s fastest growing economies, the quickest inflation since 2018, rising interest rates and a weaker currency are threatening its pandemic recovery. To this, Marcos vowed to keep the economy open, resume in-person education and provide relief to the agriculture sector.

No More Lockdown

“We can’t afford another lockdown. We need to balance the health and well-being of our countrymen on one hand and the economy on the other,” Marcos said, prompting applause and standing ovation from lawmakers. “Spending efficiency will be improved to immediately address the economic scarring arising from the effects of COVID-19, and prepare for future shocks.”

He vowed to build the country’s health care capacity especially outside the capital Manila and support the welfare of nurses and doctors. In a bid for more investment, Marcos said the country’s economic zones would be equipped to welcome companies in health care. The trade department, he said, is in talks with manufacturers of generic medicines to bring down the cost of drugs.

Marcos, who is also the agriculture secretary, proposed a one-year moratorium on farmers’ loan payments and write off some obligations to give the sector some breathing space.

Nuclear Power

The Philippines must build new power plants and reexamine its strategy on nuclear power, Marcos said, citing rising demand. It must take advantage of renewable energy, such as solar and wind, and also study providing incentives for gas exploration.

The government will also look into the nation’s “precarious” water supply situation and explore ventures with private companies, he said. Marcos said he will build on his predecessor’s infrastructure program to help drive growth and employment, vowing to sustain spending at 5% of GDP. “We must keep the momentum, and aspire to build better more.”

On foreign policy, Marcos said he will “not preside over any process that will abandon even a square inch of territory” to any foreign power. “We will not waver. We will stand firm in our independent foreign policy, with the national interest as our primordial guide.”

© 2022 Bloomberg L.P.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting