By Charissa Luci-Atienza
The government needs to invest some P27 billion to P32 billion for the proposed implementation of cash transfers for the middle class during the enhanced community quarantine, Rep. Joey Salceda (Albay, 2nd district) said on Wednesday, April 8.
Salceda, who is the chairman of the House committee on ways and means, insisted that there is a basis for a middle-class cash transfer, disclosing that around 6.6 million families were not included in the government’s social amelioration program (SAP).
“(Results of studies by) my office (point toward) calibrating a middle-class cash transfer that should not be higher than the lowest amount received by low income and vulnerable households. We reckon the total amount required for such additional cash transfers to be around P27 to 32 billion, which we believe to be a reasonable investment in the middle class, and which will almost certainly immediately support aggregate demand in the economy,” Salceda said in a four-page paper disclosing his observations and recommendations on the SAP.
He earlier proposed that all Filipinos, except those in the top 10 percent of the population be given P1,000 emergency assistance during the ECQ.
Salceda said that evidently, middle class households in Regions III, IV and National Capital Region (NCR) “are either mostly or entirely outside the coverage of the SAP.”
He said that the middle-class households, on average, have annual savings of P42,000 to P89,000.
“As the second quarter has only started, these families likely have access to only a quarter of those annual savings (between P10,000 to P22,000 ). If they are not paid or are unable to avail of special work arrangements, they will likely exhaust their savings within the next two months,” he said.
“Some households in these deciles who are currently not identified as eligible beneficiaries will likely have to be considered for inclusion in the second tranche of transfers,” he pointed out.
On April 3, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) started distributing the P5,000 to P8,000 emergency subsidy to low-income households as provided under Republic Act No. 11469 or the Bayanihan to Heal As One Act.
The law mandates that each low-income household shall receive an emergency subsidy ranging from P5,000 to P8,000 per month for two months.
“Middle class assistance may come in the form of a wage subsidy to ensure that they are employed and their employers remain viable amid the pandemic,” Salceda said.
Citing that there is generally one-to-one correspondence between the poverty rate and SAP coverage, the House leader said some regions in the Visayas and Mindanao “may require additional assistance” if and when it becomes necessary for nationwide measures similar to ECQ,
“In Regions 8, 9, and CAR (Cordillera Administrative Region) , the poverty rate to SAP coverage ration exceeds the national average, and the discrepancy is especially pronounced in CARAGA,” Salceda said.
He also cited the need for the implementers of the national action plan to assist the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) in distributing the emergency subsidies in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).
He asked the DSWD and the local government units (LGUs) to “monitor and evaluate the identification and distribution processes, learn best practices and address bottlenecks and difficulties experienced during the first tranche of subsidies, in time for subsequent tranches if necessary.”
Salceda, an economist, said that serious consideration should be given to the capacity of public markets, supermarkets, grocery stores, and other establishments to accommodate sudden, one-time surges in demand due to the rollout of the SAP.
“The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and the Department of Agriculture (DA) should be on the alert for profiteering complaints and should proactively prevent abusive pricing practices during pay-out days, to ensure that Filipino households get the full and fair equivalent in goods of the subsidy,” he said.