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Inclusive growth with the new budget

In a few more days, it will be the New Year 2017 with all its hopes and expectations. In the last six months, the new Duterte administration has concentrated its efforts on rooting out the drug problem as the President promised during the election campaign. With the New Year, we hope the government will now move full-blast to meet the many other problems of the nation, led by the biggest one of all – mass poverty.

President Duterte signed the 2017 General Appropriations Act last Thursday – P3.35 trillion, the biggest in the nation’s history. In accordance with the constitutional provision that education has the biggest budgetary priority, the Department of Education (DoE) which looks after basic elementary and secondary education has the biggest allocation among all the departments of the government – P544.1 billion. In addition, the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) which supervises tertiary education has P18.7 billion while State Universities and Colleges (SUCs) have P58.72 billion, including a new P8.3 billion to provide, for the first time in our history, free college education in state schools.

For the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), there is P128.3 billion, including funds to continue the Conditional Cash Transfer Program to help the country’s most impoverished families. For the Department of Health (DoH), there is P96.3 billion, while PhilHealth has P53.22 billion for a universal healthcare program. For the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), there is R148 billion and for the Department of National Defense (DND), P137.2 billion.

Two departments have sizable budget increases – the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) with P454.7 billion and the Department of Transportation (DoTr) with P53.3 billion. They will be carrying out a huge infrastructure program of P850 billion – for road networks and bridges, school buildings, hospitals, airports and seaports. These infrastructure projects will provide employment for thousands while raising national productivity and attracting local and foreign investments. This is the core of the government program to against poverty in the country in the New Year.

Another major part of the anti-poverty program will be new development efforts in agriculture, as it is in the rural areas where our poorest people live. For the Department of Agriculture (DA), the budget allocated is P45.2 billion and for the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) P9.8 billion. In addition, there is P38.4 billion for the National Irrigation Authority (NRA) so Filipino farmers need no longer pay for irrigation water.

The infrastructure program will boost the private sector which provides the bulk of employment in the country, while building facilities that will push the overall economic development of the country. This should further boost the country’s Gross Development Program (GDP) which, at 7.1 percent, has made the Philippines the fastest growing economy in Asia.

But more than this national growth statistic, we look forward to greater employment for our people as a result of all these projects in the new national budget and the resulting boost in private sector activity. The growth must be Inclusive, shared by and benefiting the masses of our people. This is the great hope raised by this first national budget of the new Duterte administration.