Ben Diokno – Manila Standard

ON THURSDAY, June 9, I had the great pleasure of introducing Benjaimin E. Diokno, outgoing Governor of Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, as a guest speaker from the Rotary Club of Manila.

Ben Diokno’s reputation precedes him.

He is eminent. He’s a public figure. He accomplished a lot – from simple to good to really big.

He has rendered great service to our country and its people during a distinguished professional career that spans more than half a century.

Ben Diokno wants to do more as secretary to President Bongbong Marcos at the Ministry of Finance (DOF). BBM is the fourth president he will serve.

What does it take to achieve the many things? In a word, gravity. It means seriousness or solemnity in manner. Sa Tagalog: dating (emphasis on second syllable).

First, Ben is a serious scholar. This gives him maturity and authority of intellect. Scholarship is nothing without two other attributes: first, a passion for excellence, and second, a love of people and country.

These two attributes, Ben has many, so abundant they cannot be measured with ordinary performance metrics.

His departure as head of the BSP means a loss of 20 million pesos in annual salary, to settle for 2.5 million pesos paid per year to the DOF.

His passion is like that of the Taal Volcano (he’s from Taal, Batangas, by the way) – seemingly calm on the surface but bubbling below, with occasional bursts of energy, wisdom and brilliance – on matters that overlap politics, good governance, and money, especially other people’s money.

He has impressive credentials: BA in Public Administration, UP 1968; Masters in Public Administration, UP 1970; Master of Arts in Political Economy, Johns Hopkins University, Maryland, 1976; and Ph.D. in Economics, Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York, 1981.

As a young man of 38, as Cory Aquino’s undersecretary of the budget, he helped devise the 1986 tax reform program that simplified income tax and introduced value added tax. .

In 1981 he helped design the local government code of the Philippines.

As President Estrada’s budget secretary from 1998 to 2001, he introduced transparency in the allocation and spending of public funds. Called the WYSWIG – an acronym for what you see is what you get – the system has simplified budget fund releases.

He reformed public procurement using information and communication technologies.

As President Duterte’s budget secretary, he pursued an expansionary fiscal policy to finance investment in human capital and physical infrastructure.

He coined the mantra “The Golden Age of Infrastructure” or what is commonly referred to as Build, Build, Build, ushered the Philippines into the modern era because the Duterte administration poured 5 trillion pesos in the infra.

Meanwhile, during his short stint as BSP Governor, he enabled more than 30 million Filipinos to have a bank account, through the power of digitalization.

It will also use this power to cut red tape, reduce corruption and improve governance.

He has kept the Philippine banking system liquid, stable and proactive.

At BSP, Ben became the world’s greatest central banker. When the worst pandemic of the century hit, he acted quickly and decisively.

It poured an unprecedented 2.3 trillion pesos into the financial system to help the economy recover.

It lent 540 billion pesos to the Duterte government to procure vaccines and help the needy and displaced.

He said: “We looked for solutions and acted boldly in the face of difficult situations.”

His audacity transformed the economy, transformed the people, transformed the

Philippines.

No other government official, in fact, no other Filipino, has done more to help our people and our economy recover during the pandemic.

From the depths of despair with an economic decline of 16.9% in the second quarter of 2020, the worst crisis in the country’s history, the economy has recovered strongly, with an impressive growth of 8.3% in the first quarter. of 2022.

It has made our money plastic, tactile, metallic, luminous and waterproof; and put animals and flora and nature pictures on it. Like the sampaguita, the eagle, the pearl of the South Seas, the Tubbataha reef.

More than seven out of 10 Filipinos are fully immunized. It means herd immunity. This herd immunity restored the health of Filipinos and restored the health of the economy as Filipinos began to spend money again – to go out, dine, shop or simply enjoy daily outdoor fun.

And the Philippines have proven their resilience. It retained its investment grade ratings. This should lead to a cheap cost of capital, more jobs, more financial stability and some of the highest growth rates in Asia and the world of emerging economies.

Ben became the best central banker in the world when he was barely a year in the job.

Imagine what he can do, as the next finance secretary, managing Asia’s freest democracy, the world’s 12th largest consumer market and one of the world’s largest races – Filipinos.

So far, Ben is enthusiastic about his job as the next head of DOF.

As head of BBM’s economics team, he made many important promises – to reduce inflation from the current 5% to 4.6% for the whole of 2022 and between 2 and 4% in 2023; reduce the public deficit to a percentage of GDP or the value of economic output, from 7% to 3% by the end of the BBM presidency; ensuring that Filipinos become middle income with a single-digit incidence of poverty also during the same period; and to continue to pour money into Build, Build, Build, education and people’s health.

It does not seem focused on imposing new, higher taxes. But he wants to keep the current excise taxes on fuel and other refined petroleum products.

Excise duties and VAT collected this year could amount to 105.9 billion pesos.

Instead of giving up much of that tax money, Ben Diokno wants targeted aid to vulnerable sectors like jeepney drivers, fishermen and farmers.

Moreover, he fears that once excise taxes are reduced or abandoned, they will disappear forever.

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