"Here are the Finance Secretary’s responses to businessmen’s questions."
After his speech before the Management Association of the Philippines Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez entertained questions focused on concerns of businessmen about the current health and economic situation:
Here are among his most important points:
“At P1,300 per individual, (we) will be able to vaccinate around 57 million people out of the 70 million who are supposed to be vaccinated… We will be able easily, with the resources we have raised, to vaccinate 60 million Filipinos.
“As soon as the vaccine becomes available I think in February, unfortunately for some it’s going to be a Chinese vaccine. I know that some people don’t like to take this type of vaccine. But you know if it works, it works.”
On charter change to open up the economy:
“I am for really opening up our economy in all areas possible. With the exception, of land ownership… We should look at the Constitution and open as much as possible.”
On face-to-face school sessions:
“I look at my grandkids and I think they are not getting their money’s worth. I would much rather they go to school but you know with the help authorities saying it’s not safe.”
On business asking always for incentives for doing things that they could profitable do without government boost:
“Why is everybody looking for incentives? if it’s a good thing—you do it yourself. I was in a banana business before. I was in the banking business. I don’t know, but we never said ‘hey I’m going to do this if you give me a tax break’… Let’s grow up! Too much dependence on government. Come on guys!”
On additional PhilHealth and SSS contributions:
“You want a higher payout? Put in more.”
On possible bailouts of bankrupt too-big-to-fail companies:
“There might be companies that are really systematically important that are going to run into problems and may need bail-out. But now, we have no tools for that. Maybe we should have those.”
On NAIA rehab:
“Do they want to do it or they don’t want? Make up your mind, because if not, NAIA will do it itself.
On the vaccines:
“A lot of people are wondering whether we have enough money to inoculate the people. We have 110 million Filipinos. Of the 110, around 40 million are below the ages of 18 and it is not recommended that teenagers and below get the vaccines. So you knock-off a 140 million out of 110. So that leaves you with 70 million Filipinos potentially to vaccinate. Now, the amount of money that we have raised so far, we have a total budget of P82.5 billion but we have P75 billion already in place.
“I figure a conservative cost of inoculation per individual is going to be around P1,300. P1,150 for the vaccine itself and around P200 for the syringes, the information campaign, the monitoring, getting rid of the waste, etc.
“At P1,300 per individual, you will be able to vaccinate around 57 million people out of the 70 million who are supposed to be vaccinated. Now, of this—that leaves you 30 million. We expect the 30 million to be covered by the LGUs, the private sector, and of course, there are the refusals—the guys who don’t believe in vaccination.
“Basically, we are going to be covered and I think we will be able easily now with the resources we have raised to vaccinate 60 million Filipinos.
“The funds for the vaccine are P12.5 billion from the budget. That’s already in the GAA. That’s already budgeted. And we will borrow. We have already lined up P62.5 billion from ADB, AIIB, and World Bank-- that’s $1.3 billion (or) P62.5 billion. That’s our funding program.
“Moderna will not sell it to the individual company—they will not, period. I don’t know what the other guys will do but Moderna will not. I think Pfizer will not.
“The private sector (wants to) buy; of course, they can buy. However, the pharma companies or some of the pharma companies are insisting that the government underwrite it. Not underwrite it in the sense that we will guarantee it but we buy it together. It’s been done but there’s already a vaccine coming in May. I think, it’s (the) AstraZeneca vaccine, it’s already been done. I don’t know why people are discussing this thing. It’s a waste of time.”
“I am for really opening up our economy in all areas possible. With the exception, I always put here—with the exception of land ownership. You know the issue of land ownership is so emotional and any mention of that will stop the whole program. So, let’s do something doable, let’s open up the economy.
“Retail trade should be open. Things like the construction business should be open. There are loads of areas that need to be open.
“In fact, the other day I just—was talking to the Economic Development Council and we were looking at you know, how many products we have that are subject to quotas?
“I just found out that we have a quota on importing goats. How stupid is that? Okay? How stupid is a quota for importing goats? It is good milk, something good and something to be promoted and yet you know you have to go to this whole rigmarole with the Department of Agriculture in purchasing their goats.
“I’m just pointing out the ridiculous things. But there are many other areas that need to be open.”
On lowering corporate income taxes to 20 percent from the current 30 percent :
“You can do two things to stimulate the economy. You can collect the money and we distribute it. And you know how inefficient it can be.
“Why don’t you just leave the money with the private sector? Maybe they know how to spend it better. Why don’t we trust them in this particular case? And anyway, we have to do it because our tax rate is the highest in Asia. So, this is the time to do it.
“And we leave the money with the people and let them decide how they’re going to invest money because I think the rational Filipinos are going to invest it in good business opportunities when they arise. Instead of collecting the money and then turning it over again in the meantime you know with all the bureaucracy and corruption and what do they call it—that friction cost involved. I think it’s worth it to drop our collection rate rather than increase it and then we distribute it.”