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Early 2020 budget draft should avert 2019 fiasco



IN a move that should help avert the delay by three months in the implementation of the 2019 national budget, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) has come out this early with a proposed budget for the year 2020.

The proposed budget amounts to R4.2 trillion. This is 12 percent higher than the 2019 budget of R3.757 trillion, which we are now implementing starting last April. We had to use the reenacted 2018 budget for the first three months of the year because Congress got embroiled in a dispute over alleged pork barrel funds and was able to approve the 2019 National Budget only last March.

In the proposed 2020 budget, nearly half – 44.9 percent – will be funds for regular activities and programs of the government (Tier 1), such as maintenance of offices and equipment, infrastructure subsidies to government corporations, and ongoing projects approved in previous years. The amount of R1.35 trillion is proposed for automatic appropriations, such as Internal Revenue Allotments (IRA) for local governments.

For new programs (Tier 2), the amount of R1.045 trillion is proposed for the administration’s infrastructure program. Corresponding amounts are proposed for the implementation of the Bangsamoro Organic Law, the Rice Tariffication Act, the Universal Health Care Act, the institutionalization of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino cash-aid program, and the establishment of the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development.

This proposed budget prepared by the DBM will be sent early to Congress so it will have sufficient time to study and approve it before the year ends. It can then be signed by President Duterte and thus enacted into law before January 1, 2020, in time for the start of the spending year.

We were not able to achieve this with the 2019 National Budget because senators and congressmen accused each other of inserting “pork barrel” funds in the budget. The members of Congress should be able to have truly needed projects included in the budget of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), if they can work on it early enough, such as in the initial proposal of the DBM.

The proposed budget for 2020 drawn up by the DBM is notable for its funding for new programs and projects of the administration, especially the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region and the rice importation program. For these two programs alone, there can be no delay in the 2020 national budget’s approval.

We hope, therefore, that the early drafting of the national budget for 2020 will give everyone concerned sufficient time to study it and make the necessary amendments. We must not have a repeat of this year’s congressional impasse that forced the national government to use a reenacted budget for the entire first quarter of the year.