Saturday, 14 March 2009

President signs Philippine P1.4-trillion budget

DepEd, DPWH, DILG lead agency outlays
President Arroyo restores P50 B for debt servicing
Manila Bulletin

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo signed last Thursday the P1.414-trillion national budget for 2009 which, Malacañang said, will allow more spending to "blunt the effects of the global economic downturn," Budget and Management Secretary Rolando Andaya announced yesterday.

Mrs. Arroyo signed the 2009 national budget without fanfare.

Secretary Andaya said the new national budget is P188 billion higher than the P1.226-trillion 2008 national budget.

He said the increase in the budget will provide funds for activities that will encourage growth in the economy and create jobs, like building more infrastructure and increasing funds for social services.

"It will be targeted spending that will address present concerns while investing for the future," he said.

Mrs. Arroyo, however, vetoed the P50-billion realignment by Congress from the debt servicing fund to the funds for infrastructure and social services, which Congress intended to provide more economic stimulus amid the global economic crisis.

Andaya defended the veto of the P50-billion realignment, saying that the presidential veto on Congress’ "tweaking" of the debt servicing fund was "a practice all her predecessors resorted to."

Andaya explained that Mrs. Arroyo vetoed the "concept of appropriating" an amount for debt servicing because debt servicing is automatically appropriated by law.

"Debt servicing is automatically appropriated — you have to pay for what is due each year. What was vetoed was the concept that debt servicing is a programmed amount," Andaya said.

The amount for debt servicing was cut by Congress from P252 billion to P202 billion, but Mrs. Arroyo’s veto restored the original amount for debt servicing.

Andaya explained that the amount that would actually be used for debt servicing could be more or less than the P252 billion allocated by the budget because the debt payments would be influenced by the actual cash that the government would have for 2009.

The government’s Economic Stimulus Fund (ESF), however, was not vetoed.

Andaya said the P10-billion ESF will fund the construction of at least 6,000 classrooms, 2,959 kilometers of farm-to-market roads, and irrigation works in 125,000 hectares, among other infrastructure projects.

By agency, the biggest recipient of this year’s budget is the Department of Education (DepEd) with an outlay of P158.2 billion, followed by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) with P130 billion, and the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) with P63 billion.

The other agencies with the biggest budgets are: Department of National Defense (DND), P56.5 billion; Department of Agriculture (DA), P41.2 billion; Department of Health (DoH), P27.9 billion; Department of Transportation and Communications (DoTC), P25 billion; State Universities and Colleges, P22.8 billion; Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), P13.1 billion; and the Judiciary, P12.6 billion.

No single gov’t worker will lose job, GMA assures

Not a single government worker will lose his or her job under the rationalization program in the bureaucracy, President Arroyo declared yesterday as she practically suspended the abolition of government positions with redundant functions.

Speaking at the Kiwanis International 34th Asia Pacific Convention at the Waterfront Cebu City Hotel, in Lahug, Cebu City, the President directed Budget Secretary Rolando Andaya Jr. to allow employees with redundant positions to keep their jobs until they reach their mandatory age of retirement in an effort to protect the dedicated workforce from the fallout of the global recession.

Even as she opted to keep excess government workers on payroll, the President said the government will continue to run a lean, efficient government and carry out other belt-tightening measures to generate savings for more food, fuel, and rice subsidies for the poor.

"On the part of the government, we must live within our means and run a lean, efficient government. All the while, we must also simultaneously invest in people. For this reason, in the light of the global crisis, in the implementation of rationalization program of government, I have asked Secretary Andaya to make sure that nobody is dislocated," she said.

"If, in accordance with the rationalization program, an employee is occupying a position that has been declared redundant due to rationalization but he still prefers to stay in government, then the position will only be abolished upon his regular retirement," she added.

Mrs. Arroyo said it would be "really quite ironic" if the government sets aside money for emergency employment programs while it was letting go of other workers in the meantime. "A lot of the technically declared redundant are anyway going to be vacated by retirement in a few years time and I believe we can wait for that time," she added.

In recent months, the Arroyo government has been criticized by labor groups for implementing the untimely rationalization program that reportedly would displace a significant number of state employees at the height of the faltering global economy.

Despite her commitment to spend on more infrastructure, social services, and job generation, the President said the government would cut costs and other wasteful spending like an average Filipino household.

She noted the government must continue to "come to the rescue of the poorest among us" with targeted subsidies on food, fuel, and rice, and other mitigating measures.

"In challenging economic times, the government must tighten its own belt and live within its own means so we will have money to pay for all of these subsidies and programs. To that end, the government is taking a series of actions to stop unnecessary and wasteful spending. The taxpayers deserve no less from their government and public servants," she said.

Among the cost-saving measures are the mandatory requirement for government agencies to use fluorescent lights rather than incandescent bulbs, she said.

The President said she also asked government agencies to reduce by 1.5 percent their respective maintenance, overhead, and operating expense (MOOE) budgets, which translates to 7-billion savings.

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