Bu-lat-lat (boo-lat-lat) verb: to search, probe, investigate, inquire; to unearth facts

Vol. VI, No. 36      Oct. 15 - 21, 2006      Quezon City, Philippines








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2007 Budget, Wage Hike Proposal
Not Beneficial to Lowly Paid Gov’t Employees

In the proposed 2007 national budget, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) reportedly earmarked P10.3 billion ($206 million) for the salary increase of government employees. Is there cause for celebration among the 1.4 million-strong government workforce, particularly those who are getting low salaries?


The 2007 General Appropriations Act (GAA) is said to be historic since this is the “first trillion-peso budget in Philippine history.”

Out of the P1.13 trillion-budget ($22.52 billion) for next year, the Cabinet departments that will get the highest allotments are the Departments of Education (P135.5 billion or $2.71 billion), Public Works and Highways (P73.6 billion or $1.47 billion), Interior and Local Government (P51.1 billion or $1.02 billion), National Defense (P49.5 billion or $990 million), Agriculture (P18.5 billion or $370 million), Transportation and Communication (P17.5 billion or $350 million), Agrarian Reform (P15.6 billion or $312 million) and Health (P11.7 billion or $234 million).

In terms of sectoral allocation, P329.382 billion ($6.588 billion) will be spent for social services; P328.733 billion ($6.575 billion), interest payments; and P223.173 billion ($4.463 billion) economic services.

Interestingly, the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) was only given a P1 ($0.02) budget due to its decision to give an “X” rating to the documentary about the life of ousted President Joseph Estrada titled “Ang Mabuhay para sa Masa (To Live for the Masses).”

House Speaker Jose de Venecia said that the Senate should deliberate on the proposed budget immediately after the resumption of Congress in November so that it could have ample time to debate and approve it before Christmas.

In terms of priority, the 2007 budget appears to be nothing new as debt service gets a lion’s share, with interest payments alone accounting for 29.19% of the total. While the DepEd has the highest budgetary allocation as in the past, it remains to be seen if the funds will be used this time for the much-needed hiring of new teachers, building of classrooms and procurement of seats.

A study by the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) shows that as of school year 2005-2006, there is a need to hire 49,699 new teachers, build 57,930 classrooms and provide 3.48 million seats to the students. To do these, the DepEd needs to earmark P54.13 billion ($1.08 billion).

Given that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has denied any classroom shortage and even publicly scolded then DepEd acting Secretary Fe Hidalgo for saying that there is, one would doubt if more classrooms will be built next year.

Wage hike for government workers in the offing?

What proves to be interesting for government workers is the announcement of Budget Secretary Rolando Andaya, Jr. that P10.3 billion ($206 million) has been allotted next year for the salary increase of government workers.

Andaya said that he wants the salaries of government workers “closer or at par with those in the private sector.” In what he called a “conservative study” made by the DBM, the disparity in salary scale between the government and that of the private sector increases “as the rank goes higher.” He mentioned that the difference could be actually seen from Salary Grade 10 and up.

The government employees’ last salary increase was in 2001 when the salary scale for government workers was revised in January and July. At present, the lowest paid government employee has a basic monthly salary of P5,082 or $101.64 (Salary Grade 1). Included in this salary grade are utility workers.

A public school teacher with the entry-level rank of Teacher 1, on the other hand, belongs to Salary Grade 10 and earns a basic monthly salary of P9,939 ($198.78).

The highest scale, Salary Grade 33, is allotted to the President who gets a basic monthly salary of P57,750 ($1,155).

While the plan to increase salaries sounds like welcome news to government employees, one should be alarmed by Andaya’s opposition to an across-the-board increase which cause-oriented groups are pushing for and which Andaya thinks some politicians might resort to given the May 2007 elections.

According to him, this type of salary adjustment would put those with higher salaries on the losing end since they stand to get less, “percentage-wise.” It may be recalled that the organized sector of government employees, in close coordination with labor groups in the private sector, have been calling for a P3,000 ($60) across-the-board increase in their monthly pay.

The government’s proposal to increase salaries of its employees is clearly biased for those who are earning more and would benefit little, if at all, those who belong to lower salary grades like the government drivers, janitors and street sweepers. While there is a need to look after the welfare of professionals in public service like teachers and doctors who are getting lower salaries than their private sector counterparts, an across-the-board increase proves to be more viable so as not to discriminate against those who belong to lower salary grades.

The call, after all, of cause-oriented groups for a legislated wage hike for both private and public sectors is meant to provide much-needed relief for those whose wages cannot provide for the needs of their families, a situation that is obviously more apparent to those who are earning less. Bulatlat

(Note: US dollar conversion based an exchange rate of P50 for every US dollar.)



© 2006 Bulatlat  Alipato Media Center

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