“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.” – Bayan
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA – As the House of Representatives began deliberating on the proposed P2-trillion ($47.74 billion) national budget for 2013, groups expressed fear that the proposed budget will be “exploited for electioneering and will not provide free social services for the Filipino people.”
The proposed budget next year is 10.5 percent higher than this year’s P1.816 trillion ($43.35 billion).
In a statement, multisectoral group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) said 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 P21 billion ($501.31 million) and P26.5 billion ($632.69 million), as well as the P4.8-billion ($11.4 million) hike in the conditional cash transfer (CCT) program’s budget, “are meant to buy patronage from local politicians and voters to boost the electoral bid of Liberal Party candidates.
“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 said.
Bayan noted that this could be the motivation behind the rush by the LP-led appropriations committee at the House of Representatives and the Senate to finish the whole budget approval process by December.
Despite the anomalies in the CCT program of the Aquino administration, the budget for CCT or the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) will be increased by 12.4 percent from this year’s P39.4 billion ($942.58 million). The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) hopes to target 3.8 million households for next year.
In a report, the Commission on Audit (CoA) cited several anomalies in the 4Ps, including double entries of beneficiaries and unliquidated P6.6 billion ($157.89 million) fund transfers.
Moreover, the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) also feared that the P1-billion ($23.92 million) quick response allocation in the proposed budget for the Department of Agriculture (DAR) could be “used as a seed fund for the election of Aquino’s allies.”
The P1-billion quick response fund allocation will be divided into two P500 million ($11.96 million) allocations. For each tranche, P350-million ($8.37 million) will be allotted for miscellaneous and other operating expense (MOOE) and P150-million ($3.59 million) for capital outlay.
“Obviously, this P350-million for MOOE is very vulnerable to corruption,” Antonio Flores, KMP spokesman, said.
“The Filipino peasantry are yet to attain justice from the plunder of the P728-million ($17.42 million) fertilizer fund scam in 2004 and here comes another highly dubious and lump sum allocation to the tune of P1-billion,” Flores said.
Two months before the May 2004 presidential elections, former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, then running for presidency, released P728 million to favored officials to buy farm inputs like fertilizer and pesticide, as part of the Ginintuang Masaganang Ani project.
“It appears that the agriculture budget is now the favorite cash cow of corrupt bureaucrats for the elections,” the peasant leader said.
Multisectoral alliance Bayan also scored the Aquino administration for “deceiving the public” by hyping the 2013 budget as an “Empowerment Budget.”
Although there will be significant increases in the budget allocation for health and education facilities which will rise next year by P7.9 billion ($188.9 million) or 167-percent hike and P8.9 billion ($212.92 million) or 54 percent-increase, respectively, the Aquino administration is also keenly promoting public-private partnerships (PPP) in providing such facilities, Bayan said.
The group cited the Department of Education’s (DepEd) P16.5-billion ($394.74 million)PPP School Infrastructure Project (PSIP), which will construct 9,300 classrooms this year and the Department of Health’s (DoH) P13.6 billion ($325.36 million) for 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,” Bayan said.
“… [b]ehind 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,” Bayan said.
“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,” the group said.
For 2013, interest payments will reach P332.9 billion or only P32.7 billion lower than the combined allocation for education, health and housing.
In a related development, the Kilusang Mayo Uno called for the repeal of Automatic Appropriations Act (AAA).
Almost 40 percent of the national budget is allotted to paying the country’s foreign debt.
“For decades, the government has prioritized the dictates of lending institutions over the needs of the country’s workers and people,” said Roger Soluta, KMU secretary general.