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We should have no budget problem  with new Congress

EDITORIAL

Published

e-cartoon-aug-23-2019The  Committee on Appropriations of the House of Representatives met yesterday to begin deliberation on the proposed  national budget for 2020.

The House is determined to avoid the debacle last year  when  Congress  was able  to approve the national budget for signing by President Duterte only last March, when It should have been approved in December,  2018, so the government could begin to use it at  the start of the new year 2019.

The  delay was caused by  a dispute between the House and the Senate on P75 billion which some congressmen  insisted on  including  in the budget, a huge amount the senators  suspected to be  “pork barrel” funds  intended  to benefit  some congressmen. That delay was truly unfortunate, for it kept the government from   initiating  important   economic and social programs, such as many public works projects and salary increases

At the center of last year’s  dispute  in Congress was the practice of “parking” billions  of  public  funds in various areas of  the budget without any specific  details on how and where they are to be used.  There was P54 billion listed for “flood mitigation.” There was P75 billion  placed in the budget for the Department of Public Works and Highways, but without any specific projecst.

The P75 billion  was specially suspect; it could be used later  for any projects proposed by  some  congressmen. Such discretionary funds had been declared  illegal  by  the Supreme Court in 2014.

This year, acting Budget Secretary Wendel  Avisado  assured,  there are no parked funds in the proposed budget he submitted to the House last Tuesday. “Every centavo has an identified purpose,” he said.

With the public attention  focused on the budget this year,  we  are confident that we will not have last  year’s problem of  parked  funds. We  expect the coming budget  deliberations  to  be open and  businesslike, as congressmen, and later the senators,  examine  the proposed budget.

It will be a record  P4.1-trillion 2020  national budget, 12 percent higher than the   P3.662-trillion 2019 budget.  It includes  P1.25 trillion for education and other social services,  P1.18 trillion for economic services,  P734.5 billion  for general  public services,  P451 billion for debt burden,  and  P195.6 billion for defense.

We  have today a great start on the budget in Congress. We have, it  is hoped, learned our lesson from last  year’s experience when we tolerated the antics of certain congressmen seeking to benefit  from budget  funds. We have a new Congress and we should  have  no problem of the kind we had last year.

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