By Hannah Torregoza
The Senate committee on economic affairs will convene on Monday the government’s top economic managers and members of the academe to tackle the effects of the Duterte administration’s Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) law vis-à-vis the rising inflation and its effect on consumers.
Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, chair of the committee on economic affairs, said he will ask for updates on the effects of the recently rolled out TRAIN Act on the purchasing power of consumers, as well as any changes in consumer behavior that have already been observed.
Likewise, Gatchalian said he will probe the exact operational status of the expanded cash transfer program that the Duterte administration has promised to implement for the benefit of 10 million families, in order to shield them from the inflationary effects of TRAIN.
The senator said there is a need to identify immediate government actions that can be taken to mitigate the effects of rising prices on the wallets of Filipino consumers.
Gatchalian earlier filed Senate Resolution No. 642, calling on the Senate to look into the macroeconomic fundamentals of the country, particularly focusing on means to contain the rising inflation.
“The biggest component of the inflation we are experiencing now involves food prices. This is a cause for concern because studies show that higher inflation, especially if driven by rising food prices, is related to higher hunger incidence among the poor and working-class sectors,” Gatchalian said.
“We need to identify and implement a strong plan-of-action to get this inflation under control and make sure our countrymen have enough food to put on the table for their families,” he added.
Gatchalian cited data from both the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) and the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) that reveal a 3.95-percent inflation figure for January 2018, the highest January inflation rate since 2014 at 4.24 percent.
He also noted that food and non-alcoholic beverages — registered second among basic goods and commodities — had the biggest inflationary increase for the year at 4.47 percent.
The Senate hearing will also discuss the potential causes of inflation, such as rising oil prices, heightened consumer demand, and a weakening peso.
“Essentially, the aim of this hearing is to get a clear snapshot of the state of the Philippine economy at this moment, with special focus on gauging the effects of this administration’s economic reforms on Filipino consumers,” he said.
“This snapshot will be critical to the crafting of responsive strategies to keep the rising prices of goods and services under control,” the senator said.