What to expect from Balisacan’s return as NEDA chief

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 4) — Arsenio Balisacan has returned to his previous post as National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) chief after six years, and he knows it won’t be easier this time around.

“When President Bongbong Marcos invited me to join his Cabinet as Socioeconomic Planning Secretary, I was fully aware that the challenges before me were far more complex than the last time I was at NEDA's helm,” said Balisacan during Monday's turnover ceremony between him and his predecessor Karl Chua.

Prior to his stint as the first-ever chairman of the Philippine Competition Commission, Balisacan led NEDA from 2012 to 2016 under the late President Noynoy Aquino.

“Truth to tell, I was looking forward to retirement after the PCC. Nevertheless, having always viewed public service as a great privilege, when the invitation to serve again came, I humbly accepted the challenge and responsibility of leading NEDA, recognizing its critical role in the country's recovery and post-pandemic development,” said Balisacan.

Riding on a solid electoral mandate of 31 million votes, the administration of President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. has set its sights on three major economic goals: reduce poverty incidence to single digits, achieve upper middle-income economy status, and lower the public deficit to pre-pandemic 3% of gross domestic product (GDP).

The new NEDA chief emphasizes the need to address the record-high government debt and surging commodity prices - all while hitting economic growth at part with levels prior to COVID-19 until the end of Marcos’s term in 2028.

“We are raising the bar higher: we must make this growth more inclusive and resilient. In other words, growth must be pro-poor and can weather adverse global events such as pandemics, calamities due to climate change, and geopolitical and technological disruption,” said Balisacan.

A proactive, open NEDA

Balisacan also took the opportunity to list what the public can expect from NEDA under his leadership. Of course, the commitment to push for measures needed to help elevate the country’s economic performance comes first.

“The economic reforms in the past two decades, including under the Duterte administration, have encouraged stakeholders to expect greater things from the Philippine economy. As such, despite all the headwinds and economic pains confronting us in the near term, we can aim to do even better and surpass the country's previous performance, bringing it closer to its long-term development anchor: the AmBisyon Natin 2040,” he said.

The country’s top socioeconomic planning agency will also be proactive in engaging with stakeholders according to Balisacan, vowing a NEDA that will be at the forefront of critical policy issues concerning development at the local and national level.

Balisacan said the agency will likewise work closely with lawmakers in the swift passage of priority bills and structural reforms addressing barriers to market access for the essentials.

He noted in particular the completion and enactment of the implementing rules and regulations of key measures like the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises Act (CREATE) Law and laws amending the Public Service Act, Retail Trade Liberalization Act, and Foreign Investments Act.

“It is critical to inspire the business sector to have confidence in our institutions and encourage the private sector to actively participate in the country's economic recovery and help rapidly generate livelihood opportunities for Filipinos,” said Balisacan.

He also assured careful consideration of comments on the revised IRR of the amended Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) Law for public-private partnerships.

Lastly, Balisacan vowed a NEDA that espouses a culture of openness, transparency, and professionalism both within and outside the agency.

“With all of us supporting each other, I am optimistic that we can and will diligently fulfill our mandate, rising to meet the pressing challenges before us head-on,” said Balisacan.