Group slams deceptive 2013 budget, raises electioneering fears

THE proposed P2-trillion national budget proposal of Malacañang is deceptive as it create the illusion of empowering the people by supposedly responding to their urgent needs, the multisectoral group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) said.

The group expressed fear that the administration will only exploit the bigger budget for electioneering. The group issued the statement as the House of Representatives (HoR) started deliberating today the Aquino administration’s proposed 2013 national budget.

Members of the inter-agency Development Budget Coordinating Council (DBCC) faced Wednesday the HoR’s appropriations committee to justify the national budget proposal of President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III. Heads of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), National Economic and Development Authority (Neda), Department of Finance (DoF) and Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) make up the DBCC.

By hyping the 2013 budget as an “Empowerment Budget”, Bayan said the Aquino administration is deceiving the public. It said that the increases in the allocation for basic social services hide the truth that government is in fact steadily abandoning its duty to provide health, education, housing and other services to the people. The group added that if the proposed budget is empowering anyone, it would be the Liberal Party (LP) of the administration, which is seeking to clinch more local and senatorial posts in next year’s midterm polls.

Bayan cited the significant increases in the budget allocation for health and education facilities which will rise next year by ₱7.9 billion (167% hike) and ₱8.9 billion (54%), respectively. At the same time, however, the Aquino administration is also keenly promoting public-private partnership (PPP) in providing such facilities. Case in point is the Department of Education’s (DepEd) ₱16.5-billion PPP School Infrastructure Project (PSIP) which will construct 9,300 classrooms this year. Another is the Department of Health’s (DoH) plan to employ PPP schemes for infrastructure development and technical upgrades of its 25 hospitals nationwide. The required profits of private contractors that will undertake these projects will needlessly bloat the fees that the people will ultimately shoulder.

The group also expressed apprehension that the huge absolute increases in the budget of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) and Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) of ₱21 billion and ₱26.5 billion, as well as the ₱4.8-billion hike in the conditional cash transfer (CCT) program in next year’s budget, are meant to buy patronage from local politicians and voters to boost the electoral bid of LP candidates. Bayan noted that this could be the motivation behind the rush by the LP-led appropriations committee at the HoR and Senate to finish the whole budget approval process by December.

Bayan pointed out that the 2013 “Empowerment Budget” builds on the Aquino administration’s previous packaging of “Reform Budget” (2011) and Results-Focused Budget” (2012). Underlying all these budget proposals is the theme of “daang matuwid” (straight path) and “kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap” (without corruption, there’s no poverty). But behind the pro-poor packaging is the reality that the priorities and programs of government, as reflected in its national budget, remains unresponsive to the urgent social needs of the people and development requirements of the country. The budget continues to prop up defective policies imposed by foreign creditors such as privatization while allocating huge resources for CCT dole-outs to conceal the harsh social impact of such programs and automatically setting aside a significant portion for debt servicing. For 2013, interest payments will reach ₱332.9 billion, just around ₱32.7 billion lower than the combined allocation for education, health and housing.

A national budget, according to the group, is important because it sets how government will use its resources. For backward countries, the issue of budget takes a more crucial role considering the scant public resources available amid the massive needs of the people and economy. In fact, for the Philippines, government needs to take a bigger responsibility to ensure that the people’s most basic needs such as education, health and housing, among others are met adequately given the chronic poverty and job scarcity. At the same time, government must judiciously use the budget to invest in programs and policies which create the most favorable conditions for sustainable development and industrialization that will, in turn, create long-term jobs and address poverty.

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