Coloma: Enough funds for P2.6-T budget

By Delon Porcalla, The Philippine Star

Posted at Aug 02 2014 08:23 AM | Updated as of Aug 02 2014 04:46 PM

MANILA, Philippines - There will be enough funds for next year's proposed P2.6-trillion national budget, Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. of the Presidential Communications Operations Office said yesterday.

“From government revenues and from borrowings. The sum total of it all, we will be able to maintain the deficit at only two percent of the gross domestic product (GDP),” Coloma said.

He was reacting to San Juan Rep. Ronaldo Zamora’s voicing his doubts on the government’s capability to fund such a big budget.

Coloma acknowledged that the proposed P2.6-trillion budget for next year is bigger than the combined revenues of the Bureau of Internal Revenue, Bureau of Customs and other government agencies.

He clarified, however, that government earnings would be augmented by borrowings.

Explaining the principle behind President Aquino’s budget message, Coloma said the 2015 budget would meet the requirements of an expanding economy.

The government has to increase its expenditure to enhance production and the overall economy, he said, adding that an enhanced economy would mean more funds for social protection and services.

Coloma also defended the government’s Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) or the conditional cash transfer (CCT), saying its effects on reducing poverty are based on scientific analysis.

The CCT encourages poor families to maintain their children’s health and keep them in school, so they would have better job opportunities in the future. This is why the administration has been trying to increase the program’s coverage, he pointed out.

Poll funds

Meanwhile, former national treasurer Leonor Briones said the administration might be planning to use lump sums in the budget for its campaign in the 2016 elections.

“This is similar to the 2012 budget that preceded the 2013 elections. The government cranks up spending for infrastructure and construction the year before elections,” Briones said.

“Concrete projects create the impression of growth, though it is a challenge to sustain this growth for the next years,” Briones, who is also Social Watch Philippines (SWP) lead convenor, said.

She noted election spending also carries political implications for officials and parties seeking positions in the government through the elections.

“In Philippine politics, elections are all about money. Government spending places incumbent politicians and their parties at an advantage over their opponents for the upcoming elections,” she said.

“Projects are credited to officials as part of their track record as the ruling parties would spend for projects in their allies’ jurisdictions. Opposing parties can be deprived of this spending, putting them at a disadvantage,” Briones explained.

She said that based on SWP’s assessment, almost half of the 2015 proposed budget represented lump sums. She said this was not easy to detect due to lack of details and mechanisms for clear accountability.

“Only P1.739 trillion is covered by the General Appropriations Act. The rest are automatic appropriations and therefore, not scrutinized by Congress,” she pointed out.

“The President’s Special Purpose Fund is P378.603 billion, the Unprogrammed Expenditures is P123.056 billion, Internal Revenue Allotment is P389.860 billion, interest payments (debt servicing) is P372.863 billion,” she said.

“This does not include Malampaya Fund which is also automatically appropriated, and off budget funds like the Motor Vehicle User’s Charge and those coming from Pagcor,” Briones maintained.

SWP said that instead of massive amounts in lump sums, there should be increased allocations to agencies directly involved in social development, such as health, education and employment.

Agencies should be required to make regular reports on their expenditures, to make sure transparency and accountability are easier to trace and establish.

“The presence of lump sums in the budget, especially for one that precedes the elections, makes public funds all the more vulnerable,” Briones said. – With Rhodina Villanueva