That NEDA 'budget'

Before Socioeconomic Planning Secretary and concurrent National Economic Development Authority (Neda) Ernesto Pernia made a hasty clarification that as per their calculation a family of five would need no less than P42,000 a month to live decently, news reports said a subordinate in the agency had advanced a hypothetical model suggesting that a Filipino family can make do with a monthly budget of P10,000 amid rising prices due to tax reforms.

          The P10,000 'budget' unexpectedly drew a firestorm from various sectors. 

          Two labor groups challenged Neda officials to live off such meager income so they could experience how poor families were trying to make ends meet.

          The labor coalition Sentro challenged Pernia to subject his family to a strict budget of P10,000 for a month, while the Nagkaisa labor coalition pointed out that Neda’s computation countered the administration’s supposed goal of ensuring that families live decently.

          Sen. Panfilo Lacson said his family could “survive” on the monthly budget set by Neda if his family would eat only only once a day. Sen. Ralph Recto found the Neda claim "very hard to believe."  Sen. Francis Escudero wasn’t sure if Neda was talking about the same planet: “Quite frankly, I do not know which planet they are talking about. Because it’s certainly not Metro Manila or the Philippines.”

          The Makabayan bloc in the House of Representatives also slammed the Neda claim.  “You are outrageously and shamelessly out of touch,” Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate said, while ACT Party-List Rep. Antonio Tinio said the “sample household budget” of the administration’s economic managers was another PR spin meant to deodorize the tax refoirm law and the inflation it induced.

          Amid the criticisms, Neda clarified that it did not say that only P10,000 a month was enough for a family of five.

          But the damage to the credibility of Neda economists  had been done, and the agency had to offer the public a streunous explanation of its hypothetical example.

          There's a lesson here somewhere for Neda, and perhaps it's this: Don't open your mouths when the citizenry is already grievously suffering from the high cost of living due to higher taxes, or you reap the whirlwind.