Congress sets 2019 budget scrutiny

BECAUSE of the bad fiscal deficit in 2018, Congress will scrutinize and re-examine the proposed 2019 budget.

House Majority Leader Rolando Andaya Jr. said the House and Senate will closely re-study the 2019 budget amounting to P3.767 trillion to prevent widening fiscal deficit.

Andaya said government disbursements continue to outpace the increase in revenues.

Both government spending and revenues are growing beyond their respective targets.

“As a result, government may fail to meet its deficit ceiling for the year,” Andaya said.

Even Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno admitted that government’s fiscal deficit for 2018 may fall behind the P523.7 billion target, which is equivalent to three percent of the gross domestic product.

Last year, fiscal deficit was only 2.2 percent of the GDP.

“Given this development, it is time we realize that the proposed 2019 national budget prepared by DBM is out of touch with reality. We may have to re-examine the 2019 budget closely during the conference committee with the Senate,” Andaya said.

“We are walking on a tightrope and we need a really good balancing act. The DBCC insists on a smaller contractionary spending program, yet the government needs to spend more just to catch up with inflation,” he added.

Just recently, President Rodrigo Duterte signed Joint Resolution 3, against the advice of his economic managers who recommended its veto.

This extends the 2018 budget until the end of year 2019, giving the government more spending room for social programs.

“It also throws away the ambitious cash budgeting system of Sec. Diokno.  Extending the life of the 2018 budget for next year means foregoing the DBM proposal of having only one expenditure program for 2019,” Andaya said.

In effect, government will now have two sources of spending for Fiscal Year 2019: the 2019 budget and the savings of 2018, which could reach about P200 billion.

Andaya added that in public expenditures, government should prioritize reforms such as targeted social spending and infrastructure investments that raise living standards.

“Mapabuti ang pamumuhay ng bawat Pilipino, abot kayang bilihin, maayos na tulugan, marangal na hanapbuhay ang dapat nating atupagin. This is our urgent task in the 2019 budget,” he also said.