By BENJIE OLIVEROS
A budget reveals the intent, priorities, and programs of an organization a business, or a government. Thus, the 2011 budget, which was submitted by the Aquino government to Congress for approval, reflects what it is bent on doing. Let us compare the proposed budget with what President Benigno Aquino III proclaimed as his plans and priorities, which he outlined during his June 30 inaugural address.
“We will not disregard the needs of our students. We will begin by addressing the glaring shortage in classrooms and educational facilities.”
The education budget was increased by P31.1 billion ($704.5 million) to P271.1 billion ($6.161 billion). But the increase would be used mainly for basic education. This focus is consistent with the recommendations of a 1998 Philippine Education Sector study conducted by the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, and the Asian Development Bank.
Among the recommendations of the said study is for the government to focus its resources in enhancing basic education while reducing its subsidies for state universities and colleges (SUCs). Thus, the budget for the University of the Philippines, the country’s premier state university with a population of 52,000, has been slashed by P1.39 billion ($31.52 million) or by 20.11 percent this year; the Philippine Normal University, with a population of 10,000, received a budget cut of P92 million ($2.09 million) or by 23.50 percent; the budget of Bicol University, with a population 20,000 was slashed by P88 million ($1.99 million) or by 18.82 percent; and the budget of the Polytechnic University of the Philippines, the biggest state university in the country with 20 campuses and a population of 65,000 students, has been slashed by P24 million ($544 thousand) or by 20.53 percent, mainly reducing its budget for Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses. Other SUCs that had their budgets slashed are University of Southeastern Philippines, Central Bicol State University of Agriculture, Southern Philippines Agri-Business & Marine and Aquatic School , Southern Leyte State University, Partido State University, Nueva Vizcaya State University, and Aurora State College of Technology.
Overall, the education budget is a mere three percent of the national budget, much lower than its share during the Estrada and Ramos administrations, when education got 3.7 and 3.1 percent of the national budget, respectively. The budget for debt servicing is 3x larger.
“Gradually, we will lessen the lack of infrastructures for transportation, tourism and trade…We will revive the emergency employment program established by former President Corazon Aquino. This will provide jobs for local communities and will help in the development of their and our economy.”
“If there was a fertilizer scam in the past, today there will be security for farmers. We will help them with irrigation, extension services, and marketing their products at the best possible prices.”
The budget for economic services decreased from P398.9 billion ($9.065 billion) in 2010 to P361.1 billion ($8.206 billion) in 2011, from 25.9 percent to 22 percent of the national budget. According to Ibon Foundation, the budget cuts are particularly large in the sectors of: agriculture and agrarian reform with a 26 percent reduction by P23.1 billion or $525 million, communication, roads and other transportation, which were reduced by 5.2 percent or by P7.9 billion ($179.5 million), water resources development and flood control with a 21.4 percent reduction or by P4 billion ($90.9 million), and power and energy with a 65.5 percent reduction or by P3.4 billion ($77.27 million).
“We will not be the cause of your suffering or hardship. We will strengthen collections by the Bureau of Internal Revenue and we will fight corruption in the Bureau of Customs in order to fund our objectives for the public welfare, such as:
* Quality education, including vocational education, so that those who choose not to attend college or those who cannot afford it can find dignified livelihood;
* Improved public health services such as PhilHealth for all within three years;
* A home for every family, within safe communities.”
The budget for health would be reduced from P398.9 billion ($9.065 billion) in 2010 to P361.1 billion ($8.2 billion) in 2011, while the budget for housing was provided with a minimal increase.
Budget allocation for 55 public hospitals nationwide was reduced by P363.7 million ($8.2 million) to a mere P4.8 billion ($109 million) in 2011; the budget for specialty hospitals (i.e. Lung Center, National Kidney and Transplant Institute, Philippine Children’s Medical Center, Philippine Heart Center and Philippine Institute of Traditional and Alternative Health Care) would be reduced by P970.6 million ($22 million) ; the budget for 12 major public hospitals, which includes Jose Reyes Memorial, Rizal Medical, East Avenue Medical, Quirino Memorial, Tondo Medical, Jose Fabella Memorial, National Children’s Hospital, National Center for Mental Health, Philippine Orthopedic, San Lazaro, Research Institute for Tropical Medicine and Amang Rodriguez Medical was reduced by P4 million ($90 thousand); subsidies for indigents under the National Health Insurance Program would be effectively reduced by P1.67 billion ($379.5 million).
At the same time the subsidy to indigent patients for confinement or use of specialized equipment was reduced by more than half from P36 million ($818 thousand) in 2010 to P16 million ($363 thousand) in 2011.
On the other hand, the budget for the AFP Medical Center was increased by P168 million ($3.8 million) to P1.091 billion ($24.79 million), while that of Veterans Memorial Medical Center was increased by P130.7 million ($2.97 million).
“I am ordering the DFA, POEA, OWWA, and other relevant agencies to be even more responsive to the needs and welfare of our overseas Filipino workers.”
From P50 million ( $1.13 million) this year, the fund for legal assistance for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) would be slashed by half to P27 million ($615 thousand) for 2011.
Meanwhile, the increases were significant in dole outs, which the government calls as conditional cash transfers, in the amount of P19 billion ($436 million), debt servicing with a P809 billion ($18.386 billion) increase for interest payments, defense with a P10 billion ($227 million) increase, and privatization with a P20.4 billion ($463 million) increase.
Well, it appears that President Aquino would be true to his word of strengthening the armed forces and the police and in fulfilling his “international responsibilities,”specifically in paying all of the country’s foreign debt. But with social services, especially health and public tertiary education, economic services, and protection of OFWs, the budget was reduced in stead of increased, even as the overall budget increased by P104.4-billion ($2.372 billion) to P1.645-billion ($37.386 million).
If we are to analyze the priorities and programs of the Aquino government in the coming year based on the proposed 2011 budget, it is indeed a straight path from where the Arroyo government left off. (Bulatlat.com)