Recto secures World Bank’s support on PH gov’t digitalization program to enhance tax administration, among other key areas

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Finance Secretary Ralph G. Recto has kicked off the World Bank-International Monetary Fund (WB-IMF) Spring Meetings this year with a high-level meeting with World Bank Group (WBG) top officials where he secured support for the Philippine government’s digitalization program to enhance tax administration, among other key areas.

During the WBG meeting led by Regional Vice President for East Asia and the Pacific Manuela Ferro, Secretary Recto emphasized the Department of Finance (DOF)’s focus on digitalization to improve tax collection efficiency, especially now that a fourth of Filipino consumers have moved to e-commerce.

The Bank expressed strong support for assisting the DOF on this front, emphasizing that it has currently created a new team in the institution dedicated to providing digital solutions to a variety of development programs, especially to those connected to fiscal areas.

The WBG is looking to expand these digital service solutions to other areas such as education and health.

In addition, Secretary Recto sought technical assistance to support the digitalization of government agencies, especially the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT).

Apart from digitalization, the government also aims to speed up the roll-out of flagship infrastructure projects, including physical connectivity, roads, and bridges, as well as the modernization of airports and seaports.

Meanwhile, the WBG pledged assistance to provide wider access to a reliable power supply in the country, especially in remote areas, as well as to harness renewable energy resources to accelerate the Philippines’ transition to clean energy.

Moreover, the Bank will help the country increase its investments in human capital by supporting early childhood and nutritional programs as well as the upskilling and re-skilling of the workers to boost its labor force.

In addition, it offered support for the country’s agriculture sector to improve productivity and profitability to address food security while reducing emissions through technological practices.

The Bank said the above key priorities outlined by Secretary Recto during the meeting will be aligned and reflected in the new country partnership framework that it is crafting for the Philippines.

As of December 2023, the WB International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) is the Philippines’ 3rd largest official development assistance (ODA) partner, with total ODA amounting to USD 8.20 billion.

The meeting was held on the sidelines of the WB-IMF Spring Meetings from April 15 to 21, 2024 in Washington, D.C.

Secretary Recto was joined by Chief-of-Staff and Undersecretary Maria Luwalhati Dorotan Tiuseco; Undersecretary Joven Balbosa; National Treasurer Sharon Almanza; Chief Economic Counselor Domini Velasquez; WBG Alternate Executive Director (AED) Erwin Sta. Ana; and OIC Assistant Secretary Donalyn Minimo.

Representatives from the Bank include Vice President and Treasurer Jorge Familiar Calderon; Vice President for the Equitable Growth, Finance, and Institutions (EFI) Pablo Saavedra; Vice President for Sustainable Development Juergen Voegele; Vice President for Human Development Mamta Murthi; Vice President for Infrastructure Guangzhe Chen; Vice President of Operations at the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) Junaid Kamal Ahmad; and Country Director for the Philippines Ndiamé Diop.

The Bank’s East Asia and Pacific (EAP) Region representatives composed of Director of Strategy and Operations Samia Msadek; Director for Sustainable Development Practice Group Anna Wellenstein; Director for Human Development Alberto Rodriguez; Director for Infrastructure Sudeshna Ghosh Banerjee; and Director for International Finance Corporation Kim-See Lim were all present.

Also included in the discussions were Regional Director for Europe and Central Asia in the Equitable Growth, Finance and Institutions Lalita M. Moorty; Incoming Country Director for the Philippines Zafer Mustafaoglu; and Senior Country Officer for Philippines Frode Davanger.