Recto takes DOF helm, unveils key strategies for faster inclusive growth

Newly appointed Finance Secretary Ralph G. Recto has outlined key strategies to steer the nation faster towards inclusive growth that benefits every citizen, enhances their quality of life, and safeguards the future of new generations.

“My job description is not just written in law, but dictated by economic conditions, shaped by what the people want, and directed by the nation’s development plan. And all of these are distilled into one objective: To promote growth that all of our people can benefit from, that results in the improvement of their lives, and secures the future of generations to come,” he said in a statement following his oath-taking ceremony before President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. at the Malacañang Palace on January 12, 2024.

Addressing the President’s marching orders to quicken the country’s road to inclusive growth, Secretary Recto emphasized the need to fortify the strong economic fundamentals established by his predecessors.

He likewise stressed the need to sustain the reform momentum by building on proven best practices and drawing on experience to fine-tune rules in order to optimize potential and maximize gains.

On inflation, the new Finance Chief committed to employing measures to shield consumers, especially the vulnerable, from the impact of elevated prices, while fully realizing the promises of game-changing reform laws.

These reforms include the amendments to the Retail Trade Liberalization Act (RTL), the Foreign Investments Act (FIA), and the Public Services Act (PSA), which are all expected to attract investments in infrastructure, industry, and services.

He also highlighted the potential impact of the newly enacted Public-Private Partnership (PPP) Code in bringing in capital that will cut infrastructure backlog, while freeing budget space for social services and generating jobs that boost domestic consumption.

Secretary Recto also assured the public that the Maharlika Investment Fund (MIF) would operate in fidelity with the law and fulfill its intended objectives.

Meanwhile, he vowed to advocate the immediate passage of key tax reforms endorsed by the President as priority measures to Congress.

“I agree that we need funds to finance growth and our people’s growing needs, and install a system that promotes fair and fast tax administration. These measures will not only finance development but will reduce deficit and our dependency on debt,” he said.

He recognized the recently enacted Ease of Paying Taxes Act as a valuable addition to the nation’s fiscal toolkit, providing significant benefits for both taxpayers and tax authorities.

The Secretary likewise pledged to champion the passage of the Capital Markets Development Act and pursue reforms in public and private pensions, prioritizing the best interests of beneficiaries while ensuring actuarial health and fund sustainability.

Under his watch, Secretary Recto committed to boosting the country’s economic resiliency by practicing fiscal discipline and prudent debt management.

He announced the development of a Philippine Medium-Term Debt Management Strategy for transparent public borrowings.

“This is the debt meter that will inform us on how to secure a future that leads to a stable fiscal position,” he said.

Meanwhile, Secretary Recto paid tribute to outgoing Finance Secretary Benjamin E. Diokno, whom he hailed for his sterling performance.

“I believe that as Batanguenos, we share the same heritage and that indefatigable trait; and as Filipinos, a robust belief in the future of this country, which he had helped make bright,” he said.

“This is not the first time I have praised him, because, as the Commission on Appointments‘ records would bear me out, I have made public my genuine admiration of the man, his works, and his vision,” Secretary Recto added.

Prior to assuming the Finance Secretary role, Recto served as Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives in the 19th Congress, representing the 6th District of Batangas.

His extensive political career includes three terms in the Senate (from 2001 to 2007 and from 2010 to 2022), where he held key positions such as Senate President Pro Tempore (16th to 18th Congress) and Senate Minority Leader (17th Congress). He started his political career as the Representative of the 4th District of Batangas from 1992 to 2001.

As a seasoned legislator, he pursued numerous tax measures and economic reforms meant to address the cost of living, generate meaningful employment, and expand the country’s fiscal space.

Among the major laws he principally authored/sponsored were the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion Act; the Universal Healthcare Act; the Rice Tariffication Act; the Ease of Doing Business and Efficient Government Service Delivery Act of 2018; the General Tax Amnesty; the Rationalization of Excise Tax on Automobiles; and the Social Reform and Poverty Alleviation Act.

During the pandemic, he co-authored the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act and the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act as well as initiated budget priorities that were necessary not only to stem the spread of the virus but also to speed up the economic recovery.

He also supported initiatives intended to soften the impact of an economic downturn, such as the Financial Institutions Strategic Transfer Act and the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises Act.

Secretary Recto has previously been a member of the country’s economic team as Socioeconomic Planning Secretary of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) in 2008.