Congress will shortly deliberate next year’s P3-trillion budget as proposed by President Benigno Aquino III. The spending plan essentially details the priority of the government in furthering its objectives of providing social, health and educational services to the public, as well as meeting certain economic objectives.
The government, however, will just be mocking the goals of the budget if it continues to underspend, especially in capital outlays. Any amount of underspending will translate into lower job generation and lop off some percentage points in the projected growth of the gross domestic product. Public services to the needy will be curtailed and the poor will continue to be neglected by the state.
Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto is obviously aware of the ramifications of underspending, declaring that the issue will dominate the discussions on the administration’s sixth and last budget bill.
Recto noted the government underspent to the tune of P827 million a day last year, as the disbursements fell short of program by P302.7 billion. “We could have built around 1,000 classrooms a day or 80 kilometers of road every 24 hours out of the amount not spent,” said the lawmaker.
President Aquino, meanwhile, boasted that the 2016 budget would make inclusive growth an achievable goal, and not a mere aspiration, by focusing scarce resources on programs that have the greatest impact on improving the lives of the people, especially those in the poorest communities.
But Aquino’s promise will just be lip service if he does not correct the bottlenecks that attended the annual spending program in 2014 and the first six months of 2015. The Philippine economy, as a result of underspending, grew just 5.2 percent year-on-year in the first quarter of 2015, its slowest pace in three years.
The government is wasting opportunities when it failed to do its pump-priming role. It slowed down economic expansion and failed to take advantage of falling oil prices in the world market.
The 2016 budget will not be an effective tool if it is not spent as designed by each government department and agency.