By Ellson Quismorio
The proposed P4.1-trillion General Appropriations Act (GAA) for 2020 will be enacted “just in time,” a ranking member of the House of Representatives said on Sunday.
This, despite Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea’s earlier pronouncement that the national fiscal plan could be signed by President Rodrigo Duterte on January 6 at the very latest.
“[The signing will be] just in time, there will be no re-enacted budget,” Committee on Justice Vice Chairman, AKO-Bicol Party-List Rep. Alfredo Garbin, Jr. said.
A re-enacted budget is basically recycling the GAA or national budget that was used in the previous year. While it’s a solution that has been adopted by government many times before, it has its limitations.
For one thing, the budget allocations for government agencies during the previous year may not meet the demands of the current fiscal year.
It is for this reason that Congress (House of Representatives and Senate) always endeavors to craft a budget and have it signed by the President before the turn of the year.
In particular, the House, which possesses the power of the purse or the authority to allocate taxpayers’ money for government expenditure, appeared to be a chamber possessed in passing the 2020 national budget as early as possible.
“The signing of [the 2020 budget] on January 6 will be in time to finance the necessary expenditures especially the social services and the ‘Build, Build, Build’ projects. This will pump prime the economy,” Garbin pointed out.
The pressure to pass the budget bill early stemmed from the late passage of the P3.757-trillion budget for 2019, which led to the government’s utilization of a re-enacted budget for the first quarter of the year.
Another response from lawmakers in connection with the delayed 2019 budget was the passage of Republic Act (RA) 11464, which made unspent portions of the 2019 GAA available for release until December 31, 2020.
“Both the 2020 [budget bill], which the President is due to sign in January, and RA 11464 would enable government to sustain the catch-up spending strategy that [President] Duterte’s economic team put in place [during] this year’s third quarter to make up for the four-month-and-a-half delay in the passage of the 2019 GAA that hobbled economic growth in the first semester,” said Deputy Speaker and Camarines Sur 2nd district Rep. LRay Villafuerte.
He agreed with Garbin in that the 2020 GAA, along with the extended validity of the 2019 GAA, would ramp up spending for Build, Build, Build, as well as on human capital formation initiatives such as basic and tertiary education, skills training, and healthcare.
“Such accelerated spending…and at a level never before reached in past administrations…would set off a double-barrel economic stimulus guaranteed to boost the growth momentum, attract local and offshore investments and create a lot more jobs for our people,” Villafuerte said.