Imee: Convert Billions In Bayanihan Loans To Direct Assistance

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Senator Imee Marcos has urged the government to convert the bulk of stimulus funds that are lying unused in state financial institutions and directly assist businesses hit hardest by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Marcos, who chairs the Senate committee on economic affairs, expressed alarm during Wednesday’s committee hearing that international financial institutions like the World Trade Organization, World Bank, International Monetary Fund, and Asian Development Bank have forecast that the Philippines could become Asia’s “laggard” in economic recovery due to the lack of economic stimulus funding.

“We can solve the sluggish disbursement of billions in stimulus funds by converting part of the budget for loan programs in state banks and pension funds into more direct forms of assistance like wage subsidies and job programs,” Marcos said.

“For example, despite 65% of carinderias and small neighborhood shops having temporarily or permanently closed, this target group cannot access these loans, being mere barangay-level operations that are not qualified according to the requirements of the Small Business Corporation and the DTI (Department of Trade and Industry),” Marcos explained.

“Even MSMEs (micro, small and medium enterprises) that are capable and ready to borrow will hesitate to avail of loans while the pandemic continues. Until there is a clearer policy on imposing community quarantines, they will lack the confidence of being able to pay back,” Marcos added.

Marcos cited that only Php3.3 billion has been lent out from the Php10 billion allotted to the DTI’s CARES (COVID-19 Assistance to Restart Enterprises) program for MSMEs under Bayanihan 2.

The Php6 billion earmarked for the hard-hit tourism sector may also remain unutilized, “until a more expansive vaccine roll-out takes place and tourist confidence returns,” Marcos said.

Funds provided by the Land Bank of the Philippines, Development Bank of the Philippines, and the Philguarantee Corporation are “similarly slow-moving,” Marcos added.

“We need to convert billions pumped into banks and other financial institutions into ‘ayuda’ from the DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development), from DOLE (Department of Labor and Employment) through the CAMP and TUPAD programs, and increased assistance to the unemployed through the SSS (Social Security System), plus other direct subsidies for digitizing, retrofitting, retooling, and retraining MSMEs,” Marcos said.