THE Senate begins today its deliberations on the proposed 2006 national budget. Senate leaders say they are breaking tradition and convening as a committee of the whole to tackle the proposed budget, instead of assigning the scrutiny to the finance committee, to facilitate the process. Budget rules require that if, by the end of a fiscal year Congress fails to pass the general appropriations bill for the following fiscal year, the budget law for the current year is reenacted and remains in force until the new bill is passed. The House of Representatives began its own budget hearings in late September, a month after the Executive submitted its proposal. Senate leaders are worried that the Lower House will not be able to conclude its deliberations on time.

Nongovernmental organizations, however, worry less about the swiftness of the budget-making process and more about how exactly such budget will allocate resources. They say that a country’s national budget is a reflection of a government’s priorities. If so, then the proposed P1.053-trillion 2006 budget is one that is geared more for debt service than programs aimed to benefit the needs of the impoverished majority.

“This budget is anti-poor,” Marivic Raquiza of Social Watch Philippines said in a forum that discussed government’s funding for the Millennium Development Goals. (The MDGs are a set of targets agreed to by UN member states in 2000, outlining the most urgent development needs for the world’s poorest populations.)

Raquiza noted that the proposed 2006 budget will allocate a measly 1.3 percent to health. Not that this is new; that proportion, in real terms, has been consistently low and continues to go down, she added, from two percent in 2000 to 1.4 percent this year.

Education, meanwhile, Raquiza observed, will receive a 13.9-percent share in the proposed budget. Such share has likewise been falling from 19 percent in 1999, to 17 percent in 2000, and 14 percent in the current year.

In contrast, debt service as a proportion of the national budget has been going up, Raquiza noted. “Since 2001, debt repayments have been eating up more than education and health, combined.”

In 1999, interest payments alone ate up over 18 percent of that year’s budget; this year, that share is up to 33.24 percent.

In the proposed budget for next year, debt payments constitute the single biggest share, comprising of some P340 billion in interest payments and another P382 billion to amortize the principal; interest and principal payments come up to P722 billion. Social Watch noted that less than half of that amount, or some P229 billion, is the additional amount needed to meet the country’s targets for basic services such as basic education, health, and water.

“Yes, there is money,” Raquiza said. “But it’s going to debt service.”

Social Watch and other NGOs have consistently called on government to negotiate for debt relief with its creditors. Such relief could include a moratorium on interest and principal payments, restructuring of others, and the writing off of fraudulent loans.

When President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo submitted to Congress the Executive’s proposed 2006 budget, she took pride in the proposal. “We need a Budget that is both decisive and responsive to these critical times. I propose such a Budget,” the President said in August. The proposed budget, said the Chief Executive, will reverse the deterioration of the country’s public services and propel the administration’s 10-Point Agenda expressed in the Medium-Term Development Plan for 2004-2010.

8 Responses to Questions on 2006 budget’s priorities

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Toro

November 14th, 2005 at 4:14 pm

It is strangely suspicious that the senate has broken tradition and convened en banc to discuss the national budget, instead of leaving the matter to the finance commitee.

Could it be that the senators have ran out of GMA bloopers to investigate and GMA officials to grill that they have enlarged the finance committee and call it committee of the whole bunch so all of them can have fun? I mean, won’t they invite GMA’s boys to defend their respective budget because they cannot invoke EO 464 if they want to get their budget approved. And this is where the fun begins. A no-show means no budget. Nada.

If they are required to appear that will make Pimentel and Serge O very happy. I just wonder what questions Dra. Loi and Jinggoy will ask. Anyway, the questions will probably be texted to them so no problem.

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muaddib

November 14th, 2005 at 6:01 pm

Ano ba yang comment mo Toro layo sa issue… Hirap sa administration takot sa sariling anino. What’s wrong with scrutiny if you have nothing to hide or you can logically defend your position? — as in this case, the proposed budget

I think you’d be better off shedding light dun sa issue raised by Marivic Raquiza if gov’t can justify a hefty chunk of the budget going to debt service instead of actual public service (health, roads, etc)

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Toro

November 15th, 2005 at 5:53 am

Sorry, muaddib, you missed the sarcasm in my statement. Scrutiny is certainly most welcome, but not the grandstanding and zarswela that some senators are noted for.

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Timtim2

November 16th, 2005 at 6:23 pm

siguro nga nakakahinayang ang dagdag revenue na sana mapunta na lang sa basic social services. pero, kung tutuusin dapat naman talaga lakihan para mabilis na matapos mabayaran ito. eh, kelan pa ba natin mababayaran yun kung maliit lang ang iaallot na pondo?

mabuti na rin siguro ito para di na maranasan ng mga kaapu apuhan natin ang pagbabayad utang. baka pagdating ng panahon, bababa na ang buwis dahil sasapat na ang pondo ng gobyerno.

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m38manila

November 21st, 2005 at 7:39 pm

And the clapola continues…… at this rate we still get nowhere

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OpenUpUrMind

November 30th, 2005 at 4:40 pm

Surely we’ll get nowhere if we talk about personalities and not ideas. Ideas which could led us to the ultimate solutions to most problems the country is facing.

The problem is the system and the people running the system. To change the system we must not talk only of parliamentary, federalism, socialism, etc, but INVENTa new system that would really serve us all!

Is there such a system? There is, if we focus our energy in that direction.

The idea of a Transitional Revolutionary Government is good and the only avenue to effect change BUT it falls short when it said that we must only CLEANSE the system, forgetting to CHANGE the system itself which allows corruption perfected as an Art form.

Again changing the system does not necessarily mean FEDERALISM, PARLIAMENTARY or whatever that has been tried already in the past by us or by other countries. WE MUST INVENT OUR OWN SYSTEM.

Certainly, we must Automate the Election.That is the only we could eliminate CHEATING. Or if it will ever happen, then there is only one entity to check… the programmer who designs and has the source code of the Automated Electoral System.

Care should be taken not to use the Counting Machines earlier rejected by the Supreme Court. It’s outdated and is open for massive cheating worse than 2004! We can for a start borrow the banks ATM technology and design:

1.The voter inserts his ID Card… then presses his PIN… if properly
authenticated and validated against repeated transaction…
2. The candidates pictures are displayed on the Touchscreen…
3. Voter presses the picture he likes…
4. Vote is counted real time [display is optional to avoid trending]
5. The machine ejects a receipt of his transaction, i.e, the votes he casted.
6. Voter leaves the precint… another one enters…
7. Election Day is over by 3pm…
8. Machine prints the Summary of Votes… reflecting every voter’s vote showing not the voter’s name or ID no. but only his transaction slip number, so every voter can check whether his was counted. This summary should be displayed outside the precinct immediately after the voting is closed.

Precinct can be anywhere… it could even be in the Internet! All we need to do is to register PERSONALLY for the Voter’s ID and vote anywhere in the world!

Now let’s go back to the SYSTEM OF GOVERNMENT that we really want to. Forget about Parliamentary or Federalism! You should even forget about democracy in its purest form! Why? Because an intelligent vote can never be realized if everyone reaching 18 can vote. Age should not be the sole parameter in which the future of the motherland be founded. Not even IQ could determine what’s good or bad, but it should be one’s Intellectual Potential or COMMON SENSE. Yes! Common Sense should be the basis to qualify for any electoral process whatever the form of government we may have invented in the near future. Since Common Sense is not really common to all, not everyone reaching 18 can vote!

Isn’t it right that we shall be governed by an intelligent government thru intelligent vote?

Again intelligence, we mean not some PhD’s on Economics or a Georgetown Diploma, but pure Common Sense!!!

LET’s TALK ABOUT IDEAS. The present corrupt system and people will crumble by itself. Our job now is to formulate the BEST ALTERNATIVE.

Good Day Everyone!

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OpenUpUrMind

November 30th, 2005 at 7:39 pm

CHILL OUT, GUYS! LET’S BRING BLOGGING TO THE NEXT LEVEL!

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INSIDE PCIJ: Stories behind our stories » Senate challenged to craft budget for development

May 31st, 2006 at 2:43 pm

[…] In contrast, the budgetary allocations to basic social services as health and education, the NGOs noted, have been “grossly insufficient and dangerously decreasing” under the Arroyo administration. (Even much earlier, Social Watch Philippines called the 2006 budget as “anti-poor.”) The education sector has suffered a decrease by 27.9 percent in its share in the fiscal pie within the last year. The Arroyo government is spending only 2.4 percent of the GDP (gross domestic product) on education compared to the average of 4.41 percent that countries within the medium human development bracket allocate, according to the United Nations Human Development Report. The health sector, on the other hand, gets only a measly 0.27 percent of GDP, way below the average public spending of African countries like Nigeria and Ethiopia, which amounts to about two percent. […]

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