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P4.5 trillion national budget: Good news and bad news

WHAT MATTERS MOST - Atty. Josephus Jimenez (The Freeman) - December 17, 2020 - 12:00am

The biggest national budget since 1935 is the national appropriation for 2021, which is a whopping figure of P4.5 trillion. The good news is the government's concern for the people. The bad news is the tremendous burdens to be borne again by the taxpayers.

The top 10 slices of the national financial pie are: Dep-Ed, P782B; DPWH, P694.8B; DOH, P287.5B; DILG, P247.5B; DND, P205B; DSWD, P176.7B; DOTr, P87.4B; DA, P68.6B; Judiciary, P44.1B; and DOLE, P36.6B. The administration defends this budget as the government's appropriate response to the confluence of challenges posed by the pandemic and the worsening poverty incidence among our people. The critics are questioning the administration's sources of revenues and debts to fund this huge budget. Many are voicing their concern on what fractions of this gargantuan financial moola will end up in the pockets of corrupt politicians and the usual suspects among their cohorts, the contractors, suppliers and other predators.

In education, the poor public school teachers will most probably continue spending their own money, or go on begging for donations to buy reams and reams of bond papers and to pay for printing of modules to be distributed to their pupils in far flung mountain villages and valleys. These poor education frontliners are facing daily risks and carrying heavy burdens while their national and regional officials are dealing with suppliers using the budget in most extravagant and at various ways and times, in dishonest ways. In public works, the regional directors and district engineers will have control of billions of funds, which may not be spent in the most prudent and honest manners. Kickbacks and grease money continue to be practiced even in the face of strong warning by the president himself.

In the health sector, there should be better and more prudent and honest ways in the purchase of medicines and equipment even as we bewail why many of our government doctors, nurses and other medical professionals are overworked, underpaid and neglected by their immediate superiors and higher officials. These poor frontliners are often lauded for their heroic fidelity to duty, and yet the government is not putting money where their hearts are, and not walking their talk on the care for the medical practitioners in the public and private sectors. Covid vaccines are allocated P72.5 billion, which was reported increased at the last minute to more than 100 billion. The DILG should use their budget to help financially strapped LGUs who are not able to cope with the crisis. Not all local government units are as rich as Makati, Taguig, Pasig and the province of Davao de Oro.

There are some questions why the DND has a huge allocation of P205 billion, while we give the DA only P87.4 billion, or just a little more than one-third for sustenance of life than for killing. Is the government buying more guns and bullets and less rice and other prime commodities for food? Is national defense more primordial than food security? We can well appreciate the P176.7B for DSWD but why are dole-outs much, much more than the P36.6B for DOLE's job generation? Why are we funding mendicancy much more than we fund employment and workers' protection? I cannot, for the life of me, understand why the government is funding dole-outs with such huge amount and only one-fourth of that for generation of jobs and for the protection of the working class.

This government may have to reexamine its priorities. For a struggling third world economy, we are paying billions to more than 300 congressmen who do nothing, but stay at home, enjoying life, while millions are starving in the pandemic. They do not even participate actively in discussions of very important issues, even when sessions and committee hearings are being done via digital platforms. The government pays for their wifi and even buys for them and for their hundreds of consultants the softwares and the hardwares to do their jobs. What have these trapos done to help alleviate the sufferings of the people? They keep on showing off by coming up with a budget without a clear source of funding. And why does a small congress in a small country have to be governed by 29 deputy speakers with higher perks and allowances and budgets?

The P4.5 trillion budget for 2021 is another evidence showing that the Philippines is a poor country trying its very best to look rich and to spend money beyond its means.

NATIONAL BUDGET
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