Senate resumes plenary scrutiny of P3.35-trillion 2017 budget bill

November 15, 2016

SENATORS on Tuesday resumed marathon plenary deliberations on the P3.350-trillion 2017 national budget bill submitted by the Duterte administration to Congress.

Taking turns interpellating Sen. Loren Legarda on her budget sponsorship speech, the senators sought clarifications of the Senate Committee on Finance chairman’s report on the annual funding allocations, listing programmed appropriations at P2,431,986,952,000 and unprogrammed appropriations at P65,100,000,000.

“The P3.35-trillion proposed national budget for 2017 is the biggest annual budget ever assembled,” Legarda said, assuring that “it is a budget that will help deliver the change that our people want.”

She reported the committee is “forecasting real GDP to grow at 6.5 percent to 7.5 percent over the coming year, with inflation rate settling at the level of 2 percent to 4 percent,” adding that the 364-day Treasury bill rate is projected to hover between 2.5 percent and 4 percent, while the peso-dollar exchange rate is seen to settle between P45 and P48 to the dollar.

Senate Minority Leader Ralph G. Recto pointed out, however, that a conventional way to read the budget is to hold a magnifying glass over the fine print and peso signs.

“But to better analyze it, the budget should be held up to higher exacting standards. In short, to view it from the prism of what we want to achieve as a nation,” he said.

Recto added, “It should be gauged by how many poor it would deliver from poverty; how many jobs it would create; how it will—and where it will—spur growth; how it will distribute opportunity; and how many people it will liberate from chronic hunger.”

He asked the budget sponsor to provide details on how many people will march away from the poverty line by December next year.

“For P3.3 trillion, how many jobs will be created? Sa puntong ito, matagal na po akong proponent ng pagkakabit ng jobs odometer sa national budget…for P3.3 trillion, how far will the GDP needle move? I will be asking these because in looking at the budget, it is not the size of investments that is important, but the impact. It is the yield that matters.”

Recto reminded the Senate that in order to truly measure a budget’s efficacy, “we must subject it to the following test: its poverty-reducing, job-creating, growth-inducing potential.”

He indicated that the minority will also be asking what guarantees are in place that will prevent “the repeat of the scourge that was underspending which we saw in the recent past. How can we turbocharge the utilization, in a manner that will speed up spending without leaving the government shortchanged?”

Recto also asserted that if the people pay taxes promptly, “then the way they are reimbursed through this budget, which is said to be a catalog of rebates, must be done in a prompt manner, too.”

Source: Business Mirror