On SONA 2022: Big Economic Goals, Bigger Expectations

By Kezo Andre Javier

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Monday delivered his first State of the Nation Address (SONA) as he outlined the primary agenda of his administration for the next six years. Right off the bat, he has been very clear that economic recovery and growth will be the top priority. In particular, he enumerated their target figures for the Philippine economy under his watch. These numbers may sound great but the present reality screams otherwise, a bigger burden that his government will have to carry especially in the coming months.

Cartoon by Alexia Macatuno

On the general overview of the economy, Marcos Jr. stated that his administration looks to achieve 6.5% to 7.5% real growth on the gross domestic product (GDP) in 2022 while aiming for 6.5% to 8% in 2023 to 2028. Based on data from the World Bank, the country has already been reaching these levels of real GDP growth from the past years, including the administrations of former Presidents Benigno Aquino III and Rodrigo Duterte. 

Moreover, GDP data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) shows that the Philippines has yet to regain its pre-pandemic GDP since the country experienced its worst economic decline in 2020 due to COVID-19 restrictions. From these, it is highly likely that the government will attain its target growth rate. However, it is not a guarantee of better living standards for Filipinos, especially since the current administration’s bar is set lower than before.

Aside from the GDP, the president also set his eye out on minimizing the poverty rate to single digits by the end of his term. Based on the latest data from the PSA, the national poverty rate stands at 23.7 percent in the first half of 2021. This number equates to 26.14 million Filipinos living below the threshold of Php 12,082. A deeper look will also reveal that 9.9 percent or around 10.94 million Filipinos cannot even afford enough sustenance for food. 

Given the current situation, Marcos Jr.’s goal may not be plausible provided that the present figure is more than twice his desired number. Unless his administration can craft a large-scale economic reform that will truly reach those at the margins of society, the goal of a single digit poverty rate may remain a dream for the foreseeable future.

On fiscal management, the chief executive introduced their Medium-Term Fiscal Framework, which aims to establish economic stability while having room for growth and recovery. In line with this, the president has presented various policy agenda that is geared towards increasing government revenue while promoting efficient budget use. For one, his priority National Government Rightsizing Program (NGRP) will yield government savings which can be allocated for other important programs. His preference for Public-Private Partnerships (PPP), which was mainstream in the Aquino administration, also presents better potential for the management of public funds than projects funded fully by government loans. These all sound ideal but unless the implementation is free from illicit procedures, the possibility of corruption breaking the economy will always be there.

While the administration’s agenda looks good for the general economy, the fate of the ordinary Filipinos is still in limbo. With the expected increase in investments in the coming years, it is still not sure whether this macroeconomic growth will translate into better lives for the people. 

Marcos Jr.’s promotion of the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises (CREATE) Law as attraction for investors can be seen as a preference for big businesses. At the same time, his special regard for infrastructure as key to economic growth is signaling a misplacement of government priority. 

While important, infrastructure projects should be geared towards addressing the needs of the people. Investments in public infrastructure needs to be beneficial for the general public, not just some people. These leanings can be interpreted as Marcos Jr. relying on trickle down economics. However, past administrations, particularly the Aquino government, have shown that it will not always work and the poor do not reap the benefits of these economic investments.

The new president’s SONA showed where we are headed as a country for the next six years. While he missed important contexts from the present situation of the Filipinos, his agenda of governance provides a bright outlook for the Philippine economy. But then again, as my economics professor  at the University of the Philippines told us, all presidents will want to address the same economic issues regardless of who they are. They will all set big goals for their administration to achieve. The huge difference lies in how they implement their programs and projects, and that will decide whether their big expectations will become a success or a disappointment.


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After the first State of the Nation Address (SONA), the Explained PH Opinion Desk shares a series of columns tackling the important areas of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s speech, including the necessary points that he did not mention.
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