World Bank backs DOF’s tax reform program

The World Bank has expressed its full support for the tax reform that the Department of Finance (DOF) is proposing in line with President Duterte's 10-point socioeconomic agenda that is focused on sustaining high economic growth and making its benefits felt by all Filipinos.

In a meeting with Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, World Bank officials led by Vice President for East Asia and the Pacific Victoria Kwakwa offered to provide the new government with technical assistance and to share best practices and experiences in other countries to help the DOF effectively implement its proposed reforms on tax policy and administration.

World Bank Country Director Mara Warwick noted that these reforms can be game changers that could improve transparency, monitoring and efficiency in tax administration, which could in turn further expand tax base.

The World Bank's offer of assistance came after Dominguez had explained to its officials the "transformative" reforms that the Duterte administration aims to carry out to help bring down the poverty rate from 26 percent in 2015 to 17 percent by the time the President steps aside in 2022.

These reforms include progressive tax reform packages to increase revenue collections while alleviating the tax burden on the middle class and vulnerable sectors; measures to ease business processes and cut red tape; initiatives to intensify social protection programs for the poorest of the poor, and accelerating spending on infrastructure by strengthening partnerships with the private sector.

"It was a very productive meeting with the World Bank officials," Dominguez said.

At the onset of the meeting, Dominguez congratulated Kwakwa on her appointment last April 15 as the Bank's VP for East Asia and Pacific. Kwakwa was previously the World Bank's Country Director for Vietnam.

Following the Bank's expression of support for the DOF's proposed tax reform, Dominguez requested the Bank to discuss with BOC other possible areas of cooperation, including strengthening the Bureau's capacity to improve its collection and reduce red tape.

Besides reducing poverty, Dominguez informed the World Bank delegation that the priority goals of the Duterte administration include upholding the rule of law and order and seeking lasting peace with armed rebels, as well as strengthening peaceful and cordial relations with the Philippines' neighbors in the international community.

During the one-and-a-half hour meeting, Dominguez also conveyed the government's strong interest in aligning the current Country Partnership Strategy (CPS) with the World Bank to President Duterte's 10-point socioeconomic agenda and the forthcoming Philippine Development Plan, which focus on inclusive growth.

Dominguez also thanked the World Bank officials for their continued assistance in helping attain long-lasting peace and development in Mindanao.

Dominguez cited, in particular, the Harnessing Agribusiness Opportunities through Robust and Vibrant Entrepreneurship Supportive of Peaceful Transformation (HARVEST) Project for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), which is now in the pipeline.

The World Bank's Philippine portfolio comprises 15 operations with a total net commitment of around $3 billion.

These include projects on irrigation, road improvements, rural development, transport, basic education and social protection.

Around $600 million worth of proposed projects funded with World Bank loans are likewise in the pipeline.

Source: Philippine Information Agency