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‘De-porking’ the budget, decongesting Metro Manila




John Tria

John Tria

As a frequent visitor to our nation’s capital region and its nearby provinces, I cannot help but lament over common problems, yet retain hope for the overgrown metropolis bursting at the seams.

Truthfully, its ecosystem has difficulty supporting its daytime population, let alone its almost 13 million or so residents.

Fact is that it is forced to source its water and food and throw its garbage outside its borders. A good part of its daily workforce lives in adjacent provinces.

We thus wonder why its regional growth has remained the same over the last several years. Are its congestion-related externalities like traffic and high food costs hampering growth? Does it still have room to grow?

This slower pace of growth is an important consideration given that 60% of our nation’s Gross Domestic Product growth is still concentrated in Metro Manila and its adjacent areas. If it cannot grow any faster, its slowness might rag our over all national growth down in the medium term.

Thus, with growth in these areas around Metro Manila slowing, and other poorer regions rising at a faster pace, we need to take a look at how these other regions ought to be supported to carry our nation’s growth forward.

That said, it is by distributing wealth and opportunity by building regional infrastructure coupled with legislating better incentives that businesses will take a second look beyond the greater manila area. It is these factors that will keep our growth momentum up.

Decongesting Metro Manila by redistributing opportunity ought to be a national priority.

When this happens, local employment is induced, and the desire to migrate to Metro Manila is reduced. We have seen how many friends from Cebu and Davao have refused Manila assignments, opting to stay where they are. Despite their having worked in Metro Manila at some point, they see little advantage in returning to the capital.

While we hope for this decongestion to happen slowly, we also hope that the  infrastructure improvements in Metro Manila and adjacent areas currently  underway can help ease the burden of Metro living.

The Manila Subway, CALAX and SLEX extensions have now broken ground addressing the skeptics who believed that “Build, Build, Build” projects will remain powerpoint presentations as they did in the previous administration.

The other hope is for other regional urban centers like the visayas and Mindanao to further improve local infrastructure such as seaports and connector roads to allow job generating industry to grow.

As infrastructure begins to trickle into these areas, various industry groups are looking into  measures to spur the growth of local counterparts snd investments in the Visayas and Mindanao.

Why the de-porking of the budget matters

Noting this, the recent removal of 95 billion pesos of projects believed to be unauthorized funds of “pork barrel”-related projects from the national budget also inspires hope to decongest Metro Manila.

This is because the national government can now focus on projects it wants to prioritize, a lot of which consists of projects in the countryside, where infrastructure and government support is needed, given the higher levels of poverty and exclusion.

No longer can representstives from more affluent districts claim funds they do not need, which seems to have been the case, historically, at least.

This veto by President Duterte of allocations accused of being pork barrel alignments will set a strong precedent for the next congress, that we hope will no longer allow the budget process to be held hostage by politicking over self serving allocations.

The delay in the passage of the budget is blamed on the House of Representatives, believed to jave been the promoter of such unauthorized allocations. As a result the trust and satisfaction of the people in the institution and its leadership have gone down.

The next congress will need to discipline itself against such. It should focus on legislating , rather then competing with the executive department.

Dear readers, we hope that in Easter redemption, we too find the hope to be a positive change for others, as Christ surely has. Happy Easter to all!

For reactions: facebook.com/johntriapage

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